Arizona marijuana legalization supporters had a July deadline to submit at least 150,000 signatures to get their proposal on the November ballot. Pictured: The line is long at the first Arizona medical marijuana dispensary to open in the state on Dec. 6, 2012, Arizona Organix in Glendale, Ariz. (Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press file)

Things are heating up for Arizona’s marijuana legalization effort

PHOENIX — Thousands of signatures to get an initiative legalizing marijuana in Arizona on the November ballot were submitted Thursday, likely making the state one of several seeking to relax laws surrounding pot.

Representatives of the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office began inspecting dozens of boxes with signed petitions collected by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

The campaign has collected more than 250,000 signatures, according to organizers.

“This behind me is evidence of that public support,” said campaign chair J.P. Holyoak, pointing to the boxes. “This is simply the first step in a process of ending the failed policies of prohibition.”

The initiative needs 150,000 valid signatures by July to qualify to be on the ballot.

Under the measure, adults age 21 and older can carry up to one ounce of marijuana and consume it privately. Adults can also cultivate up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed space and possess the marijuana produced by the plants. No more than dozen plants total would be allowed in a single residence.

The system would regulate pot like alcohol where a 15 percent tax would be imposed on all retail marijuana sales. Most of the revenue from that tax would go to Arizona schools and education programs.

The proposal has drawn fierce opposition from Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. Douglas has said legalization would create a contradiction for teachers, who warn students against using drugs but receive supplies and funding through taxes on marijuana.

Kathy Inman, co-chair of MomForce AZ, an organization advocating cannabis education, disputed that. Inman said a recent survey in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, showed teens there use less marijuana than the national average.

“That to me says that education is working,” Inman said. “I believe it’s all about honest education.”

Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham said in a statement Thursday that the GOP would “do everything possible to help defeat this initiative in November.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the Center for Arizona Policy and Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy have also come out against the measure.

“This proposition creates a marijuana monopoly for the medical marijuana industry making them wealthy while the rest of us pay the price,” Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said through a statement issued by Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy.

According to the initiative, Arizona would issue approximately 150 retailer licenses for selling marijuana. Medical pot dispensaries would have the first opportunity to get about 120 of those.

Voters in California will also be faced with the same decision in November. Proponents of an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana turned in more than enough signatures Tuesday to qualify for the ballot.

Initiatives allowing for casual use have also qualified for November ballots in Nevada and Maine.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow recreational sales in 2012, followed two years later by Alaska and Oregon.