22 citizens of Arizona deliberated on Prop 205 which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana in the entire state. After 4 days of deliberation a majority of the panel voted for the proposition. However the measure was defeated by 51% of the vote going against the measure.
Participedia Entry: https://participedia.net/case/5942
In August 2016, 22 citizens of Arizona participated in a pilot Citizen’s Initiative Review (CIR), which deliberated on Proposition 205, a ballot measure which sought to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for the entire state. After 4 days of deliberation, a majority of the panel voted for the proposition (12-9). However, the measure was defeated in the election, with 51% of the vote going against the measure.
Problems and Purpose
The CIR was used to provide Arizonian voters with a peer-reviewed, detailed analysis of the positives and negatives of Prop. 205, a measure concerned with “legalizing the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons who are 21 years of age or older (Gastil et al. 2016). The results of the review, as well as a statement of findings (written by the panellists themselves), was disseminated throughout the state, in the hope that it would better-educate the voting populace on key points of the measure (Collins, M. 2016).
Background, History and Context
Marijuana legalisation in Arizona has been a hotly contested issue (The Nation, 2016), with numerous ballots and initiatives supporting marijuana legalisation being pushed and subsequently repealed by the state, starting with Prop. 200 in 1996. This proposition allowed physicians to prescribe the drug for medicinal use, which passed in a landslide, with 65% of the vote. However, it was repealed a few months later, with state legislators citing 'health concerns' (Sahagun, 1996) In 2002, Prop. 203 failed to pass, which would have legalised medicinal use and decriminalised recreational use of the drug, with strong opposition from both Republican and Democratic parties, and the Bush administration (Gerber, R. J. 2004). In 2010, medicinal use of Marijuana was finally approved, winning by a margin of just 50.1% of the vote. It was refuted and tried in court by some Arizona lawmakers, but it was eventually put through (Sullum, 2012).
Organising, Supporting and Funding Entities
The 2016 CIR was funded by the Democracy Fund, a charitable foundation created to enhance democratic processes in the United States, and the National Sciences Foundation, an independent agency of the U.S government which supports research in non-medical sciences. The CIR is a new democratic innovation (Gastil, J. & Knobloch K. 2020), starting in the neighbouring state of Oregon in 2009. Successful pilot schemes at the local and state-level in Oregon saw the CIR being piloted in Phoenix, AZ, in 2014 (McFadden, 2015). The 2016 CIR on Prop. 205 was the first to be trialled state-wide in Arizona. The scheme was organised and convened by Healthy Democracy and Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Common to all CIRs, the initiative was closed to a certain number of participants (Gastil, J. & Knobloch K. 2020), of whom were selected by Healthy Democracy and the Morrison Institute. 22 registered voters in Arizona were invited to become panellists using a stratified random sample. Of the 3 million eligible voters in Arizona at the time, the organisers sent out 10,000 letters. 150 people responded, and a sample was taken from this group based on factors such as age, race & ethnicity, political party, gender, educational background, and geographical location in order to make it as representative and inclusive as possible. Consistent with the typical nature of a CIR, Arizona’s CIR invited a various number of stakeholders to give testimony in support or against the measure to the panellists. This included presentations being given by supporters and critics (known collectively as ‘advocates’) of Prop. 205 for the panellists on the ‘pros and cons’ of the measure. Further, “neutral witnesses” – experts on the issue with an explicitly non-biased view – were also called to give evidence. These efforts were important in order to better inform the panellists, who were to give a short written statement at the end of the CIR. This follows the principle aim of the CIR, which is to provide an electorate with a clear, simplified summary of the benefits and drawbacks of a certain proposal, written by their peers (Gastil, J. & Knobloch K. 2020).
Methods and Tools Used
The Citizen’s Initiative Review uses a form of democratic innovation called a ‘Citizen’s Jury’ (Knobloch, K. R., Barthel, M. L. and Gastil, J. 2020) in which panellists meet for a certain number of days to deliberate on a measure or ballot initiative which is to be decided on directly by the citizenry of a certain country, state, town or province. In the Arizonian case, the organisers deployed a number of engagement processes within the four-day CIR such as small- group discussions, Q & A sessions, presentations and debates to help the panel come up with a concise, clear written statement at the end of the CIR. The particular engagement processes were chosen by the organisers so as to best facilitate a high-quality deliberative discussion and “analytic rigour”. This included making a concerted effort to have equal discussion and speaking time between participants, fostering mutual comprehension between one another, and encouraging a considered approach by participants to all arguments, for or against.
What Went On: Deliberation, Decisions and Public Interaction
Day One: Day 1 involved an introduction to the Initiative and a general orientation. Panellists were told of the ground rules and guidelines for the process, along with an general itinerary of events to come over the course of the CIR. They were also given a brief training session on a ‘courthouse’ style of probing witnesses and advocates throughout the process, following with the ‘Citizen Jury’ method of deliberation. The panellists were taken through the official wording of the measure (Prop. 205) in its full statute. Shortly after a “neutral” policy introduction was conducted by the organisers in order to make the panel aware of the legal and historical context of AZ marijuana laws, as well as the practical potentialities involved in the legalisation process (if the measure passed). This included how the whole sector would be funded, regulated and maintained. In the afternoon, the panel were taken through the initial ‘advocate’ presentations. The advocates would be allocated 20 minutes each to make their case, and the panel were not allowed to ask questions at this point, as they were asked to consider them and decide which ones were most pertinent to be asked on a different day. The organisers took each point made by the advocate presentations (there were 2 in total, one from the proponent side and one from the opposition to the measure) and put them on a wall using ‘sticky tape’ to be considered throughout the CIR.
Day Two: The second day started with a discussion of the thoughts of panellists after a
period of overnight reflection. The panel were then asked to match-up the claims made by the advocates on day one to a series of voter questions collated via a survey of Arizonian voters on the issue of the legalisation of marijuana. This was done in order to make the participants aware of any other insights their fellow electorate may have, as well as corroborating whether the claims made by the advocates were both factual and informative. Further discussion was initiated over the key values and ethics of the claims made in the previous day. In the afternoon, a Q&A panel session with the advocates was conducted. The ‘pro’ and ‘con’ teams had 90 seconds to answer any question that was put forward. Throughout the rest of the day, independent, non-partisan experts were asked to speak to the panel for 6 minutes and to answer direct questions afterwards. The organisers stressed the importance of asking questions to the experts which would help the wider voting populace, not simply their own personal opinions and queries.
Day three: The third day again started with a discussion of any overnight reflections, followed by a discussion of the claims already posted on the wall. The panellists were asked to prioritise the list of claims by judging which claims would prove to be the most useful for the AZ electorate to know. In the afternoon, the final pro and con statements were read, followed by a reflection and discussion by the panel on what they have just heard. The panellists was tasked afterwards to rank the list of 14 claims made by the pro and con side using ranked choice voting, to be edited and reflected on in day four’s session and put into the final Citizen’s Initiative Statement. A final evaluation was conducted by the organisers and the panellists before breaking for the day.
Day four: This day consisted of randomly dividing the panellists into a pro and con group, tasked with writing an individual statement based on the points accrued for their respective sides. The panellists were informed that if they felt strongly about a certain position they would be able to switch to the opposing side. The groups ranked the pro/con claims into a top three for each, and then took them to the wider group who were able to challenge and change the claims which they think did not deserve to be included in the top three, or deserved to be ranked differently. The wording could also be edited and changed by the wider group.
The Citizen’s Initiative Statement was completed after a few edits. The panellists then reflected on the process and were asked to complete a survey on their experience.
According to Gastil et al. (2016), the CIR produced a statement which earned good marks for accuracy, clarity and comprehensiveness. The CIR statement was less ‘demanding’ than other official guides to Prop. 205. The process was also fair and rigorous (p. 19).
Influence, Outcome and Effects
The CIR did not appear in any official state documents related to Prop. 205 due to its classification as a pilot scheme (Gastil et al. 2016). This meant that its dissemination within the general public of Arizona was less than expected for a full CIR. Despite this, a Qualtrics online panel was used to survey 2,264 voters, of which was made representative of party affiliation and knowledge of the proposition. 32% of respondents who had already voted on the measure said they were ‘very aware’ of the CIR, with another 46% saying they were ‘somewhat’ aware (p. 21). For those who had not yet voted, 20% of respondents said they were ‘very aware’ of the CIR, and 50% said they were ‘somewhat aware’. Only 16% of respondents who had not voted nor been shown the CIR statement said they were ‘very aware’ of the CIR, but 46% of respondents in this category asserted that they were ‘somewhat aware’. Gastil et al.’s 2016 study further speculated that the high number of respondents who had heard of the CIR should not be reflective of the CIRs success, however, since similar studies of past CIRs with more media and state coverage have only received marginally higher scores for awareness.
When asked if the CIR helped in understanding Prop. 205, 50% of respondents found it ‘somewhat informative’, with 40% rating it as ‘very informative’, and only 10% finding that the CIR provided ‘no new information’ (p. 22). 41% said the statement issued by the CIR was ‘somewhat helpful’, 31% said it was ‘very helpful’, but over 28% said it made ‘no difference’. Gastil’s study, nevertheless, summaries that the CIR was informative and useful. The results for 2016’s CIR was comparable to studies conducted on CIRs in Oregon in previous years.
The CIR statement also aided in voters being able to make a ‘well-informed vote’, with 84.8% of respondents saying they had “received enough information on Proposition 205 to make a well-informed vote” after reading the statement, compared to 80.5% for people who had only read official materials related to Prop. 205 (p. 23). Further, the relevancy of the information provided in the statement received a positive score, with 50% of people saying that the material was ‘somewhat’ or ‘mostly’ relevant (p. 23).
When asked if respondents would probably share the knowledge from the CIR to their peers, a majority of respondents said they would probably or definitely share what they had learnt from the statement (excluding the people who said they ‘didn’t know’ whether they would). Supporters of Prop. 205 were more likely to share the claims made in the CIR, compared to the opponents of the ballot measure (p. 28-29). Of the respondents who had not yet voted but were shown the CIR statement, 43% of participants said they would believe refutations from experts over the key findings of the CIR. Notwithstanding, 35-39% of people would definitely or probably believe the CIR “even in the face of expert testimony to the contrary” (p. 30). Gastil’s study concluded that independent experts would pose the greatest challenge to the CIR’s integrity.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Impact on Democratic Goods:
Using the analyses of Smith (2009), common with all CIRs, Arizona’s Initiative Review was highly inclusive. The organisers’ use of stratified random sampling to obtain a sample of participants contributed to the strengthening of this democratic good, since it made the CIR more representative of the various stakeholders in Arizona. Although the process was limited to 22 people out of a possible 3.8 million people in the adult population of Arizona, one could argue that it increased considered judgement in analysing the positives and negatives of Prop.
205. The participants of the CIR had large amounts of popular control over the end product of the CIR, since their analysis and authorship of the respective pro and con statements were unedited as they went onto the official final document. This arguably boosted the transparency of the democratic innovation, since authorities could not tamper or edit any findings the group made.
This CIR was a pilot scheme, which meant its findings did not appear on official documents related to Prop. 205. However, if it were to be disseminated widely and used in important votes and ballot measures, one could argue that judging by survey statistics (including those gathered on the Oregon CIRs) CIRs would markedly improve the democratic process anywhere they were implemented. The costs of the CIR, if weighed against other administration costs of running local or national budgets (especially in Western countries), are minimal, with costs only deriving from accommodation, food & drink and the costs of staff and moderators. This contributes to the CIR being high in efficiency and transferability, since it can be deployed on a local level and a national level with no extra costs being required for the respective jurisdictional levels. This is also reinforced by its short timespan compared to other democratic innovations (over a small 4-5 day period, 4 in the case of Arizona’s CIR). This CIR was considerably smaller in popularity and scope than the CIRs conducted in Oregon, where they appeared on official state documents and received considerable attention (Knobloch, K. R., Barthel, M. L. and Gastil, J. 2020).
Researchers of the Arizona CIR noted that panellists were frustrated with the lack of editing time afforded to them after their initial corrections and changing of wording. Although the moderators had to keep everyone ‘on task’, the agenda should have been tweaked to include more time for consideration of the exact phrasing of the Citizen’s statement (Gastil et al. p. 33). The Citizen’s statement should have been written in “simpler and more accessible language”, despite efforts to keep it clear and concise. Survey results indicated that the reading level may have been too high for many voters. Panellists should split complex sentences into shorter ones, and technical terms should be outlined clearly (p. 33). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the public information campaign of the CIR needs to be heavily refined and improved. Even in Oregon CIR cases where the statement has been included in official state documents pertaining to the ballot measures, the awareness of this democratic innovation is low. The potential for a lawsuit was allegedly one of the reasons for its low dissemination throughout the state, however (p. 34). The CIR processes should also reach out other interested parties and groups to observe and document the processes of the CIR. This would help improve the public reputation of the CIR innovation.
The organisers of future CIRs must ensure that the advocates make strong claims which are verifiable with evidence and not open to subjectivity, since it could cause issues for future discussions and deliberations within CIRs. The imbalance of the lack of ‘con’ arguments in Arizona’s CIR is evidence of this, since the advocates on the con side failed to have as strong a set of arguments as the ‘pro’ side. Emotive arguments and personal attacks were a feature of the advocate Q & A’s in Arizona’s CIR, which calls into the question the ability of other CIRs to help panellists mould a fair and accurate judgement of the pros and cons of propositions or measures. In sum, however, it would be fair to say that the pilot CIR was a success. The deliberative aspect of the process was sound, as well as the final statement written by the panellists. Although the official results of the ballot measure of Prop. 205 went against the findings of the CIR (51% against, 49% for), it did provide a transferable example of a state-wide use of the innovation in Arizona.
Ballot proposition 203 (2002): https://apps.azsos.gov/election/2002/Info/pubpamphlet/english/prop203.htm
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