Safer Arizona was founded in 2013 by David Stephen Wisniewski as a response to being ordered to be an enforcer of hemp prohibition against soldiers as a Sergeant in the US Army. As a teenager, Wisniewski had been arrested for cannabis related offenses 3 different times and had educated himself on the history of cannabis prohibition while deployed in Iraq 2009-2010. After knowing the truth and being instructed to recommend UCMJ against soldiers for possessing hemp he snapped and became obsessed with getting cannabis legal. Inspired by Jared Allawys “Safer Shirts” out of Washington, Wisniewski, with Allaways help, created Safer Arizona as a way to get the message out that Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol and we need to stop arresting people for making the Safer Choice.
It wasn’t long before Wisniewski gravitated toward cannabis ballot initiatives and in 2013 Wisnieweski teamed up with local activist Denis Bohkle in attempt to get cannabis legalization on the 2014 election ballot. That campaign only achieved about 25,000 of 240,000 signatures needed.
Then the Marijuana Policy Project came to Arizona and ran the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative for the 2016 election ballot. In addition to enabling a monopoly, that initiative had such poor consumer protections that an competing initiative manifested from cannabis consumers as well as a Vote No on 205 Campaign. The competing grass roots initiative known as AZFMR failed to make the ballot and didn’t attempt turn in any signatures. Additionally the MPP initiative Prop 205 failed to pass at the ballot. As soon as AZFMR failed to make the ballot, they transitioned into a VOTE NO on 205 campaign. At that point Safer Arizona split off from that group and took a neutral position. “Vote how you please but whether 205 passes or fails, we are running an initiative for 2018” Safer Arizona held true to that stance and did run what may be the most successful grassroots cannabis campaign in AZ history collecting 75,000 signatures of 157,000 needed
.Knowing that Arizona Cannabis Industry Interests had planned on running their own initiative for 2020, Safer Arizonas position was not to compete with the industry initiative but instead, work to influence as many consumer protections as possible, anticipate to be disappointed, and focus on another initiative for 2022 or 2024 to clean up what ever mess we are in. The idea of competing seemed like a waste as it is inherently divisive, if 2 initiatives were on the ballot the vote would likely be split and they would both fail leaving us looking beyond 2020 with no progress at all. Additionally you will be exhausted from 2 years of fighting, you will have burnt bridges of people you will need help from later on the next initiative, and you are broke from spending all your money on failing. A better Idea would be to pass 2020 then just run another initiative after. Despite being public with this position, grass roots factions as well as industry factions have formally attempted to compete regardless.
Currently the Smart & Safe initiative is the only initiative on track to make the ballot for 20202. They have until early July to collect over 300,000 signatures.
Whether Smart & Safe passes or fails, Arizona still needs to improve upon the situation. Safer Arizona encourages the community to unite in another ballot initiative in the future to expand on the freedoms of Smart & Safe or just simply legalize cannabis incase the 2020 initiative fails.