Backers hoping 15 percent tax will boost support for legalizing marijuana – White Mountain Independent

PHOENIX — Backers of legal recreational marijuana took the first steps Friday to putting the issue on the 2020 ballot.

The initiative crafted by supporters and financed by the current sellers of medical marijuana, the folks who would be guaranteed the first licenses, would allow anyone age 21 and up to buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana or up to 12 plants for a household. It also would provide an opportunity for anyone already previously found guilty of having that much of the drug to have the conviction expunged from the record.

As an incentive to get people to sign the petition — and approve it if it makes the ballot — the measure would impose a 16 percent tax on sales. Proponents say that would generate $300 million a year in new revenues to fund community colleges, public safety, health programs and for construction and repair of roads.

Backers also built in provisions designed to blunt criticism, particularly from the business community that helped quash a 2016 measure. That specifically includes allowing companies to prohibit the use and possession of the drugs on the jobs, even to the point of being able to maintain policies that allow them to fire people if they show any signs of impairment.

And aside from a prohibition on sales to anyone younger than 21, it bars the sale of marijuana products that resemble fruits, toys, cartoons or even animals — think gummy bears — or “resemble or imitate food or drink brands marketed to children.’’

There also is a ban against smoking in public designed to mirror what already exists in law to restrict where people can light up cigarettes, pipes and cigars.

Backers filed the initiative language Friday with the Legislative Council, the legal arm of the Legislature, which

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