A zoning change made by the Graham County Board of Supervisors in June is at the center of two lawsuits filed Monday in Graham County Superior Court.
On June 21, the supervisors voted 2-1 to approve a zoning change that makes it possible for Bayacan to grow marijuana upon its purchase of two NatureSweet greenhouses in Bonita. In July, a group calling itself “Respect The Will of the People” filed enough signatures to get a referendum on the November 2022 ballot to reverse that zoning change.
Now, on Monday, two Phoenix law firms filed lawsuits demanding the group and Graham County “show cause” as to why the referendum should not be stricken from the ballot.
According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Shane Noel Jones, a “qualified elector,” the description of the petition sheets “was confusing and misleading” and didn’t comply with state statutes. He also alleges many of those who signed the petitions aren’t registered Graham County voters and many of them “did not actually write their own names and addresses,” on the petitions, thus making the affidavits fraudulent.
According to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Graham County residents Victoria Crawford and Tabitha Aranda, Elections Director Hannah Duderstadt “failed to fulfill her statutory duty” by not striking the signatures of those who didn’t fill out the petitions themselves. They also allege County Recorder Wendy John failed to do the same. Lastly, they allege the petition provided “misleading or confusing” information to voters.
Graham County Attorney Scott Bennett said the county does not comment on pending litigation.
The parties are scheduled to appear virtually before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah on Monday morning.
After filing the “Respect the Will” group’s referendum petition, spokesman George Khalaf said in a news release that the referendum “seeks to carry out the will of the voters, which was ignored by two of the three Graham County Supervisors.”
It goes on to say, “Graham County residents do not want their community to become the marijuana capital of Arizona, as evidenced by the number of people who signed the petition and the growing number of people opposed to the giant Bonita pot facility. The overwhelming number of signatures was achieved despite harassment and bizarre tactics from the pot facility’s hired guns.”