The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, State Supreme Court clears marijuana initiative for ballot:
Arizona voters will get to decide if they want to be able to use marijuana just to get “high.”
In a brief order this afternoon, the Arizona Supreme Court rebuffed arguments that both the summary of the initiative and the text itself was too flawed to send to the ballot. Chief Justice Scott Bales said Arizona law requires only that ballot measures be in “substantial compliance” with legal requirements. And he said Proposition 205 fits within that definition.
Interesting, because the state legislature last year passed an election reform law that required the court to apply the “strict compliance” standard of review. I want to see the Court’s explanation in the opinion to follow.
While today’s ruling clears the way for a vote, it may not end the legal problems for the measure.
Challengers contend that the initiative does not comply with a constitutional amendment that requires any new program created by voters to have its own new source of revenues. While the initiative will create a 15 percent tax to fund enforcement, it will have to borrow money initially from the existing medical marijuana fund.
The justices sidestepped that issue, saying challengers can raise those objections if the measure is approved in November.
Today’s ruling came just hours after a trial judge ordered a change in how Secretary of State Michele Reagan is describing to voters the effects of a measure to legalize marijuana. Judge rules pot ballot language ‘clearly misleading’:
A trial judge today ordered a change in how Secretary of State Michele Reagan is describing to voters the effects of a measure to legalize marijuana.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Blomo rejected arguments that Reagan was factually correct when she said that the drug would be available only to those “over 21.” Assistant Attorney General James Driscoll-Maceachron told the judge that “over 21” can mean the same thing as being 21 or older.
“I guess I disagree with that,” Blomo responded, saying it runs contrary to a plain understanding of the English language.
“If I hear you have to be over 21, that means 22,” he said. Blomo, in his ruling, called the language “clearly misleading,” as the measure would allow anyone at least 21 to buy and use the drug.
But Blomo refused to make two other changes sought by proponents of Proposition 205: that voters be told a 15 percent tax on the drug would help fund education, and that some drug offenses would remain felonies.
Supporters of Proposition 205 are arguing about the verbiage because Reagan’s description of what the measure would do appears not only on the ballot but also in a pamphlet mailed to the homes of all registered voters.
Assuming that voters approve Prop. 205 in November, rest assured that it faces a future of protracted litigation.