Greetings from So-Hi, Arizona. I hope everyone is well and taking precautions to stay that way.
I should probably start by apologizing for being so laggardly in posting updates. I am sorry.
A week ago, I was fully immersed in a rural legalization campaign that had led me to campaign stops at over 80 locations, and, Arizona NORML/SOAZ NORML collecting nearly 2500 signatures in less than five months. I had travel scheduled for the next three weeks’ worth of events from Tucson to Kingman, Safford to Yuma. Even #anormlband was booked for multiple shows and the campaign was aiming to turn in 420,000 signatures for 4/2020.
Then, last Tuesday, while volunteering as an election judge in Wikieup, I got my first cancellation. My normal/NORML hosts in Prescott sent a text—they were self-quarantining and shutting their house to all visitors for the time being. Covid19. He has lupus and she has a heart condition. It was too risky. They hoped I would understand.
In all honesty, I do not believe I did understand the severity of the covid19 crisis until that moment.
But the reality was fast heading my way. The next morning both my Yavapai County venues scheduled for that week announced they were shuttering their doors for the foreseeable. Then both ends of the following week’s Safford to Yuma trip canceled. Then all three venues for the week after that canceled, along with all five of the #anormlband shows.
By the afternoon of last Wednesday, instead of heading on to Yavapai County, I rounded up a few provisions and returned home. I have been in So-Hi, AZ ever since. Like many of you, I do not yet know where our country is headed or what it will mean for me and my family. Like many of you, I am worried, both for my people and for our people and eager for updates and reassurances.
So, here are some notes:
- The Smart and Safe Arizona campaign is still operating, though currently, we are working from home in our various homes. For the time being public events, travel and signature collection are suspended.
- The state is not likely to accommodate initiative campaigns affected by the covid19 national shutdown, either by extending the signature deadline or allowing signatures to be gathered online, but, rest assured, requests for such allowances have been made.
- Smart and Safe has already collected more than the minimum number of signatures required and is in the process of validating the signatures on hand.
- The existing final deadline for signature turn-in is the first week of July. Unless the national situation turns dramatically worse, expect another wave of signature gathering ahead of that deadline.
- With the covid19 crisis affecting all initiative campaigns, the Smart and Safe Arizona initiative are now considered by some to be the only campaign still on pace to collect enough signatures to qualify for the AZ ballot.
Cannabis Bills Pending at the State Legislature
- Arizona NORML had been following several bills at the capitol, but, starting last week, the galleries, then the offices at the legislature, were closed to the public, and those bills fell to secondary importance as the legislature worked out a state-level covid19 relief package. Since then the AZ state legislature has adjourned until the 13th of April.
- The most worrisome bill pending is still HCR2045, a ballot measure sponsored by Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers (R-LD25). This bill currently charges a 5% tax on medical marijuana products and promises to spend that money exhaustively researching the “potential harms” of cannabis. At one point the bill also included a 2% cap on THC potency of cannabis in the medical program. Though that language has been stripped, the idea of a tax on medicine is insulting and the threat of having a second ballot measure on the November ballot to confuse voters about the legalization initiative is infuriating. This bill cleared the House on a party-line vote and is pending in the Senate.
- Our flagship bill on autism, HB2049, made it to the full House Committee of the Whole and was amended on March 12th, but it hasn’t received the final vote in the House yet.
- HB2879, a bill to delay implementing the cannabis testing program that was passed last year, also cleared the House and is dormant in the Senate.
- HB2784, a bill to launch a research program on cannabis effectiveness for a variety of issues passed to the Senate and got assigned to HHS and Rules before stalling for the shutdown.
- SB1674, a bill to allow cannabis companies with more than one license to split the licenses between owners has passed the Senate and been assigned in the House, though made no progress recently.
- Efforts to get the legislature to consider emergency provisions to accommodate patients with out-of-state reciprocity or temporary grow rights have been made but are considered highly unlikely given the Speaker’s opposition to cannabis.
As many of you are probably aware, dispensaries have made considerable adjustments during the covid19 crisis: shortened hours, limited lobby availability, online ordering, pick up- or delivery-only and so on. Some, to no small surprise, have discontinued their bogos and sales for the time being.
Despite reduced hours and staff, the industry itself is hanging in there and cannabis has been seen as an essential industry in many states. National NORML has been leading the fight to protect cannabis supplies as essential and encourage solidarity through this crisis. Here in AZ, according to ADA director, Sam Richard, “the supply chain is strong,” and there is no threat of running out of product.”
Bottom line: though things are temporarily more inconvenient, cannabis is still available. It just requires some extra patience. Pun intended.
Both AZ-NORML and SOAZ-NORML have already enjoyed strong public support online and during this crisis, we pledge to redouble our efforts. Both the SOAZ-NORML meeting Thursday, April 3rd and the state chapter meeting, Tuesday, April 7th, will be live video on our FB pages and, hopefully, other platforms.
While we remain in this crisis, we can also pledge to post to our website and social media pages more often. The Statewide NORML hotline (928-234-5633) remains open. PLEASE do not hesitate to call or text if you or a friend or family member find yourself in legal or medical trouble involving cannabis.
50yrs ago NORML was created to help protect the cannabis consuming American public. That challenge has remained our central focus. As much as possible, Arizona NORML will help however we can through this crisis.