In a recent talk before the Highway 69 Republican Club, local attorney and former State Representative David Stringer spoke on the proposal to legalize marijuana in Arizona, known as Proposition 207. While in the legislature he served on the Judiciary Committee and co-founded a bipartisan study group on criminal justice reform. One of the proposals to emerge from the group was a bill to de-felonize marijuana in Arizona, which is the only remaining state where the personal possession of marijuana remains a felony.
In his talk before the group of Republican activists, Stringer analyzed the major provisions of the voter initiative which would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over. The initiative restricts the places where marijuana can be sold or consumed, and maintains sanctions for those under the age of 21. But penalties are reduced to a civil infraction for a first offense, and criminal misdemeanors for second or subsequent offenses.
Transferring marijuana to anyone under the age of 21, operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana or consuming marijuana in a moving vehicle remain illegal and punishable as crimes. The initiative also allows those with prior felony convictions for simple possession of marijuana to petition the court for an expungement.
Stringer said he supports the concept of de-felonizing the personal possession of marijuana and eliminating criminal records for first offenders. But he opposes Prop. 207 because it ties the hands of the legislature. He agrees that the high potency marijuana available today can be abused and result in adverse consequences for society. But over prosecution and stigmatizing offenders with felony convictions also carries serious social consequences both for individuals and for society as a whole.
Stringer says that’s a problem that needs to be fixed. But he prefers a legislative solution and an incremental approach to legalization. As more information becomes available about decriminalization and the experience of states that have legalized marijuana, the legislature needs to be able to modify our laws. Prop 207 is not the answer because it locks in a set of policies that may have unintended consequences. Under the Arizona Constitution, allowable modifications to voter initiatives are of limited scope and require a three quarters vote by the legislative.
To view Stringer’s talk at the Highway 69 club, click HERE.
Mr. Stringer recently sat down with Prescott Talks host Glenn Martin for a wide ranging discussion about marijuana and the implications of Prop 207.