Arizona’s hopes of legalising cannabis for recreational use have been dealt a severe blow with the appointment of one the USA’s most fervent anti-weed crusaders to the state’s Supreme Court.
Bill Montgomery was sworn in last week amid
concerns for impartiality over his unashamed bias over marijuana prosecutions.
The former Gulf War tank commander has been a
lifelong opponent of cannabis since seeing his own father jailed for smuggling
the drug across the Texas border.
Many believe the Maricopa County Attorney’s private
war on marijuana is driven by the toxic relationship between him and his late
father – a former truck driver who was also once shot during an argument over a
woman before leaving the family home.
His hard line on drugs is almost as legendary as
it is unforgiving. As is his vociferous support for the death penalty.
as there are horrific murders reflecting the worst of crimes, there will be a
role for the death penalty as a just and proportionate punishment,” he recently
In France’s Le Monde newspaper, he also reportedly described modern executions as being “too antiseptic” to deliver satisfaction to the justice system and victims of crime.
be good to return to earlier methods like the gas chamber or electric
chair,” he said.
I would prefer the firing squad.”
The 52-year-old Republican is even tough on
medical marijuana use, and has been known to attempt to prosecute people for
narcotics violations over the use of infused candies.
Medicinal cannabis is, of course, legal under
the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and
there is little or no danger of that changing. There is, however, a great sense
among anti-prohibition lobbyists that Montgomery’s extraordinary influence
could derail any prospects of Arizona pushing through legalisation for the
recreational use of marijuana.
As well as his no-nonsense approach, Montgomery has
a reputation for eliminating items from the political agenda on a technicality –
something a potential marijuana bill would offer him ample opportunity for.
His skills as a hardline legislator were highlighted
by Professor Paul Bender, dean emeritus at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of
“If there’s a recreational marijuana
initiative, and someone challenges it, Montgomery’s vote would be an important
one in keeping it off the ballot,” he explained.
“Arizona gives an enormous amount of legislative power to the people, and the Legislature hates that, so they keep passing legislation to make it harder and harder to put things on the ballot.”
Such a ballot was attempted three years ago, but narrowly
failed to cross the line. Although another effort to legalise recreational
cannabis would have more support given the current climate of widespread
acceptance and the legal moves by neighbouring states, it could potentially hit
a wall in the shape of Bill Montgomery.
Any hope for legislation in the same vein as
states like Colorado and California now rest with the very real possibility of
full legalisation being granted at federal level as a by-product of next year’s
It is widely believed Donald Trump will table
legislation for nationwide marijuana decriminalisation in line with almost
every other candidate in the race for the White House.