Gilbert is saying no to the sale, cultivation and storage of recreational marijuana in town.
Town Council last week voted unanimously for the ban should voters approve Proposition 207 on Nov. 3, which legalizes cannabis use and possession for adults.
The initiative also would impose a 16 percent tax on pot sales.
“I look at this subject from a standpoint of transportation safety-point-of-view,” said Vice Mayor Yung Koprowski, a transportation engineer. “It’s very important to me – road safety and people do not have accidents that result in injuries and deaths.
“So simply put easier access to an impairing drug such as marijuana will almost certainly result in a higher number of those accidents.”
Koprowski said although studies contradict each other on the long-term impact of recreational marijuana use, they almost always show a short-term increase in the damage of property and loss of life in study areas where weed consumption for enjoyment is legal.
“I believe it will be detrimental to our town and will be voting in order to prevent its passage and therefore I will be supporting this ordinance tonight,” Koprowski said.
The town received 78 comment cards that were overwhelmingly from residents opposing the ordinance and three in support.
Arizona voters approved medical marijuana use in 2010 but rejected recreational use of the drug in 2016. Today, there are 14 states where it is legal for adults to use marijuana other than for health reasons.
Councilwoman Kathy Tilque said she was on the stakeholder group that developed a good ordinance regulating medical marijuana in town and the latest proposal builds upon that.
Under the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, municipalities can prohibit marijuana establishments and testing facilities in their jurisdictions but they can’t restrict the ability of a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary to have a dual license to sell marijuana for recreational use at the same location.
Attorney Lindsay Schube, representing Curaleaf, the only medical marijuana dispensary in Gilbert, spoke in favor of the ordinance as it would not affect the business’ future operation as a dual-license holder.
According to the state Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the proposition would generate an estimated annual $166 million in revenue from tax and licensing fees, which would go to entities such as community college districts, law enforcement and roads.
Councilman Jared Taylor said he supported the town’s proposed ordinance although some may question why someone like him who favored small government would do so.
“There is an important role government has in certain things like the vice industries,” Taylor said. “When you have something that plays on the weaknesses of individuals, especially our youth, the government absolutely has a role.”
He pointed to the gaming industry and the stock market as examples where government regulation was needed.
“So, this is an important part of where the government does have a proper role,” Taylor said. “And, I think it’s expressed well in this particular ordinance being proactive.
“I’ve heard many times from our Police Department the issues that they are dealing with relative to this particular topic and their opposition to this and I stand with them on that to continue to have Gilbert as a very clean, safe and vibrant atmosphere like our former mayor use to talk about quite a bit. So I think this upholds this standard that we’ve worked so hard for.”
Councilwoman Aimee Yentes said she hoped voters will resoundingly reject the proposition. She said the 17-page initiative was written to protect the medical marijuana industry’s monopoly.
“Hopefully, voters will see the wisdom and the negative externalities seen in other states and take the opportunity to say this is definitely not right for Arizona,” she said.
Mayor Scott Anderson said comments he received from many people focused on how Gilbert could pass up on the potential revenue from the initiative.
“Well, the revenue is probably going to cover some of the very issues that the vice mayor and council member Yentes have already discussed,” Anderson said.
And he didn’t take stock in comments that Gilbert would be out on an island by itself in adopting the ordinance.
“We know that many of the communities around us are doing the exact same thing that we are doing right now,” he said. “So, I feel we are in a safe place. Our primary responsibility up here is the health, safety and welfare of our community and I’ve seen too much evidence that going forward with what is suggested in Prop. 207 could jeopardize that and I would not be in favor of that in the community.”
Proposition 207 also would allow anyone convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes to petition for the expungement of their criminal record.
Supporters of the proposition include former Gov. John Fife Symington, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice and Arizona Dispensaries Association.
More groups, however, are opposed to the measure, which include Gov. Doug Ducey, the Yavapai County Attorney, the National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association, Saddle Mountain Unified School District in Litchfield Park, U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.