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Democratic Senate Candidate Plans To Vote For Arizona’s Marijuana Legalization Measure Next Month



A Democratic candidate running to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate said he intends to vote in favor on initiative to legalize marijuana that will appear on the state’s ballot next month. And he’s similarly inclined to pursue enacting cannabis policy changes at the federal level if elected.

Mark Kelly, an astronaut and military veteran, was asked during a Sunday interview with KPNX-TV to weigh in on a wide range of policy issues. When it comes to marijuana, the candidate said “I think I’m going to vote ‘yes'” on the legalization measure.

“It has some provisions in there to decriminalize it and to address some of the incarceration rates for what are marijuana offenses,” he said. “I think that’s good. I think there’s a funding source there. So I’m probably going to vote ‘yes.'”

Watch Kelly discuss the cannabis legalization initiative below: 

He added that his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), might come down differently on the question, saying they’ve “got a split household on that one.”

“I think she’s leaning the other way,” Kelly said of his wife, who did vote for a 2007 spending bill rider protecting state medical cannabis laws from federal interference during her time in Congress. “We’re still discussing it.”

Giffords’s vote on the state legalization measure might be an open question, but recent internal polling from the campaign indicates that it’s in a safe spot heading into November. That survey found that 57 percent of likely voters support the policy change, with 38 percent in opposition.

That said, another recent poll that’s being touted by opponents of the measure shows a closer race, with just 46 percent favor legalization and 45 percent don’t.

Pressed on whether he would support efforts to remove marijuana from Schedule I under federal law if he beats out incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R), Kelly said “based on my vote here in Arizona, I would seriously consider removing it.”

McSally, for her part, has declined to cosponsor a single piece of cannabis reform legislation during her time in the Senate. Before that, as a House member, the lawmaker voted against amendments to protect state laws for medical and recreational marijuana, as well as CBD and industrial hemp programs, from federal intervention.

The only marijuana measure she’s supported to date was a 2016 rider that would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis that she voted for during her time in the House.

She declined to answer a question last month about her position on the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure, saying that she’ll “let the Arizona voters decide that.”

Depending on the outcome of the Senate race, having another lawmaker on board with cannabis policy change would further bolster efforts in the next Congress after a session that has seen relatively little marijuana-related activity in the chamber, and would bode well for comprehensive reform in 2021. And a Kelly win would prove especially opportune to that end if he helps Democrats reclaim the majority in the Senate, increasing the chances that marijuana legislation could advance to the president’s desk.

In the meantime, under the Arizona proposal, adults could possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

The measure also contains several restorative justice provisions such as allowing individuals with prior marijuana convictions to petition the courts for expungements and establishing a social equity ownership program

Cannabis sales would be taxed at 16 percent. Tax revenue would cover implementation costs and then would be divided among funds for community colleges, infrastructure, a justice reinvestment and public services such as police and firefighters.

The Department of Health Services would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing cannabis business licenses. It would also be tasked with deciding on whether to expand the program to allow for delivery services.

In other state cannabis news, the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council last week approved a measure to loosen restrictions on prior marijuana use by police recruits.

Michigan Governor Signs Marijuana Expungements Bill As Part Of Criminal Justice Package

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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