Legal expert weighs in as Gilbert Town Council discusses anti-marijuana ordinance

The use and sale of marijuana on public property in Gilbert could remain illegal, even if Arizona voters approve a marijuana legalization ballot measure come November.

According to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office website, Proposition 207, also known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, would allow "limited marijuana possession, use and cultivation" by those 21 years of age or older, in addition to imposing a 16% tax on marijuana sales to fund public programs, authorize state and local regulation of marijuana licensees, and allow for the expunging of marijuana offenses.

The proposition will not allow anyone to smoke marijuana in a public place or open space, consume marijuana and marijuana products while operating or riding in a car, and will not restrict a company's right to restrict the use of marijuana by their employees or prospective employees.

The town council unanimously voted on an ordinance during its Oct. 13 meeting that will ban marijuana on public property, and ban retail marijuana establishments and testing facilities within the East Valley town.

The ordinance, if approved by the town council, will only take effect if Proposition 207 is passed by voters. It will ban the "use, sale, cultivation, manufacture, production, storage, or distribution of marijuana or marijuana products" on property that is occupied, owned, controlled or operated by the town. In addition, smoking or consuming marijuana products on public property will also be banned.

Opponents of Proposition 207 have been speaking out in recent weeks. In September 2020, FOX 10 reported that a group of Roman Catholic Bishops in Arizona voiced their opposition to the ballot measure, saying it is harmful to children and families. On Oct. 9, FOX 10 obtained a statement from officials with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, detailing their opposition to the ballot measure.

"Money that is better spent on bills, groceries and household expenses might now be wasted on drugs," a portion of the statement read. "Rather than more legalized drugs we should find ways to increase our capacity to connect with our families and neighbors."

Legal expert speaks out

On Oct. 13, FOX 10 reached out to attorney Josh Black regarding the proposed ordinance. Black says there are questions on how far the ordinance actually goes. Should the proposed ordinance disallow medical marijuana, it will violate the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act that went into effect in 2010.

"This Prop 207 should not make any change to the AMMA," said Black. "In that regard, the Town of Gilbert cannot implement an ordinance that disallows medical marijuana dispensaries, but theoretically, it may be able to implement an ordinance that disallows recreational dispensaries if it was different, and they could disallow to use on public land of recreational marijuana, even if it’s legal statewide."

If Proposition 207 passes and Gilbert Town Council passes the proposed ordinance, it could be a cause of concern among voters.

"If the city implements ordinances to directly negate the citizens' voice in their town, I could see that as being problematic and something that can be challenged by residence of the Town of Gilbert," said Black.

FOX 10 has reached out to town officials in Gilbert for comment, but they refused to give any comments until after the meeting.