A look at measures to legalize pot, raise minimum wage
PHOENIX (AP) — A TV ad backing legal pot in Arizona features a Marine veteran saying marijuana saved him from post-traumatic stress disorder. In an opposition commercial, a former Colorado governor warns of the dangers of the legal drug, claiming that pot-laced candy is marketed to children.
The dueling ads come as voters consider a November ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana. Proposition 205 has drawn millions in donations, and polls show the race will be close.
WHAT OUR CANDIDATES ARE SAYING
Prop 205: Oppose. It’s the worst thing that could happen in this state.
He cited what Colorado is facing: higher marijuana use among teenagers, overdoses of pets and young children, no money for education. “It would just create another bureaucracy. We don’t need to encourage another substance that is addictive and kills initiative in our young people. It is pushed by the owners of medical marijuana. This would never pass in the legislature, so it was put to the people. I oppose it in any way I can.”
PROP 206: “I don’t support it, but if it happens, it happens. An increase in minimum wage salaries, many small businesses can’t do that. Minimum wage is used for entry-level positions for people who have no history of work. People need raises. But to mandate through the state, I don’t know. It’s not at top of my agenda.”
Prop 205: “Oppose. This is a deeply flawed initiative. It was written by the marijuana industry and has many undisclosed and unforeseen consequences. If Prop 205 becomes law, it will not allow a legislative fix to the collateral damage. A better approach would be for the legislature to support diversion and treatment opportunities for first-time offenders, particularly youthful offenders.”
Prop 206: “Oppose. This initiative goes too far too fast. We cannot legislate prosperity. Higher wages have to be earned and supported by the marketplace. The minimum wage is the starting wage for many young people entering the job market without experience. Hiking the minimum wage to $12 an hour over a short period of time will hurt small businesses and price many young people out of the market.”
“Prop 205 is a good part of why my ballot is still sitting in my car. While I do have personal opinions regarding this voter initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, the arguments promoted by both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps have become so distorted by outside interests, and outside funding, that any objective conversation around this issue has long ago been made all but impossible. Right now, the pitches sound like Peter Tosh vs Reefer Madness. The ‘No” camp is reportedly being funded by the manufacturers of fentanyl (one of the more popular opioid prescribed narcotic medications being abused today, and among the current leading ‘gateway’ drugs). I find the ‘Yes’ camp’s pitch that marijuana sales will save our schools patronizing at best. It is not marijuana users’ responsibility to fund our schools, it is our responsibility. As a voter myself, I very well may opt to not vote either way on this one because of the distorted campaign rhetoric fueled, and funded, by outside interests. The issue, as a candidate, is that I will work to abide by the voters’ wishes on this one and ensure, if the measure passes, that implementation is done taking the hopes and concerns of all into account.
Prop 206: The AZ Joint Legislative Budget Committee did an extensive review of the research around the issue of increased minimum wage. They found that regarding the impact on employment, evidence is inconclusive for a variety of reasons. On the potential effect of passing the costs on to consumers, they found research to be contradictory; some pointing to increased costs, and some to no impact. At a recent presentation I attended, a Phoenix Chamber of Commerce spokesperson even noted that the dire predictions of some around this are likely a bit exaggerated. AZ, and Prescott area, income levels continue to lag behind the rest of the country, despite household incomes nationally rising at record levels in 2015 (due, in part, by the increase in service sector employment to which this initiative is directed). For me, I can say that all the small business owners I have spoken to would like to offer their employees more, to retain skill and experience and reduce the costs of turnover, but need it to be done on a level playing field without giving big national chains, the ones whose labor records the initiative is directed to, an advantage. That would be ensured by 206. That, though, is, again, those I have spoken to. I respect the opinions of those who may disagree. As a voter, this, again, is holding up my sending my ballot in. I will, though, likely support the measure for the reasons noted above.”
Haryaksha Gregor Knauer:
“An emphatic ‘yes’ to both.”
It and another measure that would eventually increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour signal a changing electorate in a traditionally conservative state. But experts say it’s not surprising the initiatives made it onto the ballot considering voters approved medical marijuana in 2010 and a minimum wage increase in 2006.
Here are some questions and answers about the propositions:
WHAT IS PROPOSITION 205?
It would make pot legal for adults 21 and older, allowing them to use, possess and grow up to an ounce of the drug. It would create a new state Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control with the authority to license and regulate marijuana. The department also would have an investigative team to keep tabs on pot shops. Marijuana stores could not open until March 2018, although it would be legal to possess pot as soon as election results are official.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
Sales of the drug would be taxed at 15 percent, generating $53.4 million in 2019 and $82 million in 2020 for the state, according to a report by the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Of that, $15.2 million will go to K-12 schools in 2019 for operating costs such as teacher pay, construction and maintenance. Another $15.2 million would fund full-day kindergarten, while $8.6 million would pay for the new regulatory department. An additional $7.6 million would be spent on public education campaigns about marijuana and other drugs.
WHAT DO SUPPORTERS SAY?
That legal marijuana would result in safer communities and more money for schools. They say it would eliminate the black market, weaken drug cartels and allow police to focus on more serious crimes. Legalization in states such as Colorado and Washington has already led to a drop in marijuana seizures along the border with Mexico, deputy campaign manager Carlos Alfaro says. The campaign also says minorities have been disproportionately jailed or fined for marijuana possession.
WHAT DO OPPONENTS SAY?
That legal pot would bring a host of problems, especially with public safety. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk says it would increase car accidents and make it difficult for law enforcement to do their jobs.
For example, Polk says police would have no way of knowing how much marijuana is being grown in a home because the smell would not be probable cause to search. She pointed to a major drug sting in Colorado in September that netted over 22,000 pounds of marijuana that a criminal organization planned to sell in other states.
Authorities along the border also believe that legalized pot will bolster drug cartels that smuggle tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana through Arizona each year.
WHO IS BEHIND CAMPAIGNS?
The Marijuana Policy Project is behind the legalization initiative and has largely funded the campaign, along with medical marijuana dispensaries.
A wide range of opponents have emerged, including a pharmaceutical company that makes a powerful opiate-based oral spray and is developing a synthetic version of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, local chambers of commerce and several businesses.
Discount Tire Co., which is locally owned, recently donated $1 million to fight legalization. Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who has funded anti-legalization campaigns in Florida, Nevada and Massachusetts, gave $500,000 last week. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey also objects to the measure and has raised money to oppose it.
The No on Prop 205 campaign has reported about $5.2 million in contributions, not including small donations since Sept. 19. Supporters of the measure have raised about $4.1 million, also not accounting for recent small donations.
Proposition 206 would take the hourly minimum wage from $8.05 to $12 by 2020 and require employers to pay sick time to employees. If approved, the base wage would rise to $10 an hour next year, then increase every year until 2020. The federal minimum is $7.25 per hour.
It also allows workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, depending on the size of the business, and broadens the conditions that allow for sick time to include mental or physical illness or needing to care for a family member.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee says it’s hard to determine the impact of a minimum wage increase, though many believe it will result in higher labor costs for Arizona businesses. The committee found that about 706,000 workers earned less than $12 in 2015.