Arizona Cannabis Legalization Has Some Powerful Opponents

May 19th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

Marijuana legalization efforts have a lot of opponents — but not all of them are, strictly speaking, objective.


According to the Phoenix New Times, a top Arizona anti-marijuana legalization group that champions public health has taken campaign contributions from an industry that some may see as deeply hypocritical: booze.

Earlier this week, the New Times reported that Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP), a major player in the fight against legalization in the state, received a $10,000 donation from the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association (AWSWA) last month, citing campaign-finance records.

But the reasons behind the donation are more complicated than you'd think.

The ARDP's opposition to marijuana legalization comes from a place of concern for children's safety, according to a 2014 press release citing the group's co-chair, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.


According to the New Times, the AWSWA opposes legalization measures in the state, citing public safety concerns. The group's opposition is, according to the ADRP, genuine because legalization could help boost alcohol sales, as it did in Colorado.


"[G]iven how much the alcohol industry potentially stands to gain if the initiative passes, as seen in Colorado, [AWSWA's] support speaks volumes about how poorly written this initiative is for hard-working Arizonans," ARDP spokeswoman Melissa DeLaney told the paper.

ATTN: reached out to DeLaney and Sheila Polk of the ARDP for comment, and we will update this post accordingly.


But cannabis advocates say the alcohol industry's involvement in the campaign speaks more to a hypocritical stance held by legalization opponents when it comes to substance abuse.

"It really is exceptionally hypocritical for this group, which claims marijuana is too dangerous to regulate, is taking money from purveyors of a far more dangerous substance," Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project — the group behind a heavily supported legalization measure in Arizona — told ATTN: of ARDP's opposition.

"This campaign to maintain marijuana prohibition is being funded by alcohol money and it raises a lot fo questions about the actual intentions of this group, which says they are primarily interested in public health," Tvert said.


Cannabis advocates regularly cite the chasm between deaths and injuries related to alcohol, and those related to recreational and medical cannabis, which are comparatively few, if existent at all.

Others might point to the potentially competitive markets of alcohol and marijuana as a reason alcohol interests might oppose legalization — just as large pharmaceutical companies might have a vested interest in stymieing the legalization medical marijuana.

Either way, the opposition's success will remain to be seen: Arizona is one of 14 states with a relatively strong chance of legalizing either medical or recreational marijuana in 2016, ATTN: reported.