It was thrilling this week to see the Arizona cannabis community push back against LD23 Rep. Jay Lawrence’s HCR2019. The community made statewide news and Lawrence pulled his bill from consideration based on the fury of the public response. Hundreds of emails and phone calls poured in to Lawrence’s office. Well over 100 demonstrators showed and the tensions in the community temporarily subsided as everyone focused on the real enemy, Prohibition, and we all acted together.
The week before your efforts and dozens of others around the state stopped another bill dead in its tracks, LD16 Kelly Townsend’s Pregnancy Exclusion Bill, HB2061. Our response to the bill was Arizona NORML’s most viewed post ever and led to dozens of activists stepping up and forcing Townsend to back down. Two other anti-cannabis bills, LD11 Vince Leach’s HB2404 & HB2405 appear to be DOA and haven’t even gotten a committee assignment yet. So that all looks great.
BUT, there is also some other cannabis news coming from the capitol, good news. Believe it or not, despite the efforts of folks like Lawrence & Townsend, AZ statehouse attitudes on cannabis are improving and two Representatives have introduced a couple of great bills that demand our attention, LD19 Mark Cardenas’ defelonization bill, HB2007 and LD26 Juan Mendez’s tax & regulate bill, HB2406.
Mark Cardenas, LD19 Juan Mendez, LD26
Cardenas has long been a champion for the community for years, meeting with Safer Arizona staff in 2013 to help draft the 2014 legislation, HB2474, a bill to reduce the felony penalties for all cannabis charges in AZ. As of 1988, AZ has the strictest possession laws in the nation, ARS13-3405. Despite sentencing reform passed in the 90s which reduced the number of prison inmates serving time for possession, all arrests for cannabis in Arizona start out as felonies. It is a matter of prosecutorial discretion if the case is tried as a felony or misdemeanor. Either way, the felony arrest stays on a person’s record for the rest of their life, often devastating their earning power and opportunities.
While the two cannabis legalization ballot measures boast about their efforts to reschedule cannabis to reduce the social impact of cannabis charges, both pale in comparison to Cardenas’ bill.
CRMLA, the initiative drafted by MPP, protects cannabis consumers to a mere 2 & ½ oz., the equivalent of an Arizona Medical Marijuana Patient’s two-week allotment. After that the CRMLA initiative defaults to state statute and felony penalties. AZFMR extends that limit quite a bit, but also has a felony limit, 8oz. Cardenas’ HB2007 quadruples that number and protects citizens against felony charges all the way up to two pounds! Or, the equivalent of a successful outdoor plant. Other penalties are adjusted up the ladder as well. This is the 3rd time Cardenas has introduced such a bill and he is hoping to get a committee assignment this round as the bill had when originally introduced in 2014. Without getting to committee, most likely the Judiciary Committee, still being chaired by staunch prohibitionist, LD12 Eddie Farnsworth, the bill won’t advance and AZ’s cannabis community will stay at risk.
Cardenas also has introduced a tax and regulate bill for legalizing the Arizona adult use market, HB2006, and this bill had already enjoyed getting a 1st and 2nd reading, though it has not been assigned to committee yet. Another tax and regulate bill has also generated some attention, LD26 Juan Mendez’ HB2406. Mendez has attracted numerous co-sponsors for his bill including LD29 Rich Andrade, LD19 Mark Cardenas, LD7 Dr. Albert Hale, LD30 Jonathan Larkin, LD24 Ken Clark, LD19 Diego Espinoza, LD2 Rosanna Gabaldón, LD3 Sally Ann Gonzales, and the newly seated LD26 Celeste Plumlee. The bill will allow for the standard 1oz. of personal carry and 5 plants for personal cultivation and at-home use. All cannabis grown in a home can be kept there. The industry would be opened up to individual business licenses for cultivation, manufacture and retail. Cannabis would be taxed at a flat rate of $50 per ounce.
While the details of these two bills are subject to personal preference, there is little doubt that either would be a tremendous improvement in the conditions of cannabis in AZ right now. OR, that all the brave legislators sticking their necks out for cannabis reform deserve our attention and support. With either ballot measure, Cardenas’ HB2007 would provide extraordinary protections for cannabis possession. With Mendez’ we could all be smoking by May.
We at Arizona NORML are calling on you to call or email your state legislators today to express your support for HB2007 & HB2406.
Here is a sample message.
Hey, my name is ________ and I live in LD ___ [Don’t know what legislature district you live in? Check here] I am calling to speak with my representative/senator about HB2007 or HB2406. I would like to register my support for this bill. It goes counter to good public health policy and I encourage Rep. _________________________/Sen. _____________________________ to vote for it. I also request to be scheduled for a meeting with the Sen/Rep to discuss my position on cannabis with him/her.
If you should decide to schedule a meeting Arizona NORML would be happy to assist you in preparing for and attending the meeting. Contact 928-234-5633 for further details.
|Name||District||Party||Room||Phone (602)||Fax (602)|
|Steve Pierce||1||R||Send Email||301||926-5584||417-3101|
|Andrea Dalessandro||2||D||Send Email||312||926-5342||417-3169|
|Olivia Cajero Bedford||3||D||Send Email||314||926-5835||417-3262|
|Lynne Pancrazi||4||D||Send Email||308||926-3004||417-3179|
|Kelli Ward||5||R||Resigned on 12/15/2015|
|Susan Donahue||5||R||Send Email||304||926-4138||417-3067|
President Pro Tempore
|Carlyle Begay||7||R||Send Email||315||926-5862||417-3099|
|Barbara McGuire||8||D||Send Email||314||926-5836||417-3131|
Assistant Minority Leader
|David Bradley||10||D||Send Email||315||926-5262||926-3429|
|Steve Smith||11||R||Send Email||303||926-5685||417-3167|
|Don Shooter||13||R||Send Email||200||926-4139||417-3024|
|Nancy Barto||15||R||Send Email||307||926-5766||417-3261|
|David C. Farnsworth||16||R||Send Email||304||926-3020||417-3119|
|Jeff Dial||18||R||Send Email||304||926-5550||417-3120|
|Kimberly Yee||20||R||Send Email||300||926-3024||417-3110|
|Debbie Lesko||21||R||Send Email||302||926-5413||417-3109|
|Judy Burges||22||R||Send Email||302||926-5861||417-3104|
|John Kavanagh||23||R||Send Email||303A||926-5170||417-3108|
|Bob Worsley||25||R||Send Email||310||926-5760||417-3091|
|Ed Ableser||26||D||Resigned on 9/30/2015|
|Andrew C. Sherwood||26||D||Send Email||305||926-3028||417-3038|
|Catherine Miranda||27||D||Send Email||311||926-4893||417-3116|
|Adam Driggs||28||R||Send Email||309||926-3016||417-3007|
|Robert Meza||30||D||Send Email||311||926-3425||417-3114|