PHOENIX - Advocates for legalizing marijuana in Arizona filed 260,000 petition signatures Thursday with the secretary of state. That total is at least 100,000 more than is needed to qualify for a statewide vote in November.
The Arizona marijuana initiative -- officially known as the "Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act" -- would treat pot much the same way as alcohol.
Under the initiative:
- The sale of marijuana and related products like edibles would start March 1, 2018, to people 21 and older.
- Individuals could possess and use one ounce or less of marijuana and possess up to six marijuana plants.
- Marijuana buyers and business would pay new taxes and fees to state, county and local governments.
- A new state agency would oversee marijuana sales and businesses.
- Driving under the influence of marijuana would be illegal.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, backed by the same group that led the push for legalization in Colorado, promotes Arizona's initiative as a big payday for education.
"It will add money to our schools," said deputy campaign manager Carlos Alfaro.
"There will be a 15 percent tax that will be added on to legal sales, and that would go toward all-day kindergarten programs and K through 12."
A new fiscal analysis by the Legislature's Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows schools would get an estimated $30 million in marijuana-related revenue the first year after recreational pot was legalized, and about $54 million in the second year.
That's about $54 per student, or 1.5 percent of Arizona's per-pupil funding level before the May victory of Prop 123.
The initiative would evenly divide marijuana-related proceeds between full-day kindergarten and schools' operating expenses.
In comparison, the voter-approved Prop 123 will funnel about $300 million a year to schools over the next 10 years. That's about $300 per student, or 9 percent of per-pupil funding.
Seth Leibsohn, chairman of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which opposes legalization, says the initiative is the worst thing for Arizona's children.
"It will upend decades and decades and decades of hard substance-abuse prevention work," he said.