Every year at the state legislature a culture war breaks out between the ideologues on the right and the rest of the state over marijuana. People may want politics to have no place in pot, but that is not the reality of the ground truth. In Arizona, the GOP work in lockstep to derail cannabis liberties and the Dems, or one handful of Dems in particular, continue to introduce bills to enhance cannabis liberties.
You may have already seen our action alert on the horrendous HB2061 which would make pregnancy a disqualifying condition. Here is a quick run-down on the four bills designed to ruin marijuana in Arizona so far this year. Stay tuned, it is bound to be a bumpy ride.
Unlike most issues in officialdom, the cannabis community has a chance of stopping these attacks. These bills are essentially attempting to amend ARS36-2081 the AMMA, Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (Prop 203), which is luckily harder to do than it sounds. Unlike ordinary bills, bills which would alter the language of a citizens’ initiative have to have a 75% majority in both houses of the legislature and then be signed by the governor. Governor Ducey may love nothing more than to drive a pen-stroke through the heart of the Arizona medical marijuana community, but it will only take 16 votes of the House’s 23 Dems to block any bill and only 8 of the 13 senators, or in all reality 16 and 8 of any sensible people of either party to not vote for these particularly bad bills:
HCR 2019 Introduced by Representatives Lawrence (LD23), Thorpe (LD6): Boyer (LD20), Mitchell (LD13). Title: “Medical Marijuana” Lawrence, a former shock jock talk-show host on KTAX, now of Representative of LD23, is gleeful about his attempt to rewrite state medical law. If enacted this bill would prohibit naturopaths and homeopaths from being able certify patients for medical cards. A significant number of the 88,000 people currently certified get their paperwork done through certification clinics that frequently employee naturopaths who are cheaper to hire than MDs. This bill undoes that by cutting the key passage from 36-2801 definitions section, paragraph 12 that includes naturopaths. It goes onto insert language in 36-2804.06 to shortens mmj cards from one year to six months. And in 36-2815, Revocation, paragraph C punishes those who provide cannabis to those under 18 with having their card permanently revoked and class 2 felony charges. This bill, an HCR, instead of an HB, that is a “house concurrent resolution” instead of a “house bill,” has the extra hurdle of having to go through the process listed above, and then would have to pass a citizen vote at the ballot.
Besides the low stakes for blockage, this bill also flies in the face of the intent of the original initiative and is not likely to get any traction. Like so many of the ethical issues implied by these bills, bill opponents can avoid taking a political stance and simply cites the bill’s unconstitutionality and the predictable expense of a lengthy costly and ultimately failed attempt to defend flawed legislation. In addition, it challenges state medical practice which treats naturopaths as on par, equals to MDs. Though the state naturopath examining board is staying silent on this, their membership would get riled to learn their licensure had been demoted. So far it has not been given a place on the calendar and not even assigned to committee.
Likelihood of passage: NO <25%
HB2061 Introduced by Representatives Townsend (LD16), Finchem (LD11), Allen J (LD15), Boyer (LD20), Brophy McGee LD28), Campbell (LD1), Lovas (LD22), Olson (LD25), Senators Barto (LD15), Farnsworth D LD16), Titled “Pregnancy Exclusion,” this bill would add pregnancy as a “disqualifying” condition for women seeking medical cards, no matter what their debilitating condition using the rationale that exposing the fetus, who has personhood, to cannabis without its consent is essentially child abuse and DCS is already pursuing women on such charges. Babies are routinely taken at birth if the mother tests positive in the wrong hospital. “It is a horrific medical decision and terrible public health policy to insert a politician between a woman and her doctor,” notes Heather Manus of the Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association. Sharon Ravert from Peachtree NORML notes this would be the first time a “disqualifying condition” was added to a medical list and it would be a deadly precedent to allow. Statistics from the 2014 AZDHS Medical Marijuana report show that over ten thousand Arizona women of childbearing age have medical cards and could have their cards revoked if they should become pregnant. The potential number of Arizona women who could be blocked from applying for medical cards could number in the hundreds of thousands. Pregnancy, Labor and Cannabis have gone together in midwife lore going back millennia. In modern times, experts point to University of Massachusetts Dr. Melanie Dreher’s study from Jamaica which showed babies expose to cannabis prenatally had better health outcomes than those who had not had cannabis consuming mothers.
This bill has a higher potential for passage than HB2019 and has already gained more ground than any of the other bills on this list. It has been assigned to committee gone through 1st and 2nd reading and is scheduled for a hearing this Tuesday, January 19th(NORML will be there learn more) The Right believe it has tremendous optics and appears to play right into prevailing reefer madness about “drugs” and fetuses. In truth a woman’s natural endocannabinoids surge during her pregnancy and reach their highest peak at childbirth. While healthy women may be able to naturally accomplish this increased production of endocannabinoids, women who were already patients were already in need of increased cannabinoid levels and likely suffer from endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome and will have their health care regimen threatened to leave off of their usual cannabinoid supplement. Patients who will have to resort to pharmaceutical epilepsy medications will be exposing their fetuses to truly dangerous narcotics and the mother’s seizures.
Likelihood of passing: POSSIBLE, NOT VERY PROBABLE >35%
HB2404 Introduced by Representatives Leach (LD11), Thorpe (LD6), Finchem LD11), Kern (LD20), Livingston (LD22), Petersen (LD12) Titled: “Medical marijuana card fees prohibited.” The meanest bill in the bunch, this bill inserts a prohibition in 36-2803 A5e of the discount for patients on federal food stamps. Current those on food stamps only pay the state $75 in card fees instead of the usual $150. While some might counter that patients don’t need to be spending their cash on cannabis while poor, thus the rationale of the bill; people who are poor often are on Medicare or Medicaid as well and have many of their health costs paid already except for their cannabis. In addition to the poor, the dispensary and the certification industries will be hurt by this one if it gets legs.
Again the high standards of overturning language in a Voter Protection Act-protected initiative give the public some protection from this one going all the way to the guv’. There a several reasons to think it is less than likely to make. One: it has not been assigned to committees yet. Two: it is the opposite of furthering the intention of the original initiative by restricting access to medical cannabis for ill people. Three: the optics on this one can be made to make the AZ GOP leadership look heartless and malicious to the healthcare needs of the poor. Oh wait, they are.
Likelihood of passing: POSSIBLE, NOT PROBABLE >40%
HB2405 Introduced by Representatives Leach )LD11), Thorpe(LD6), Finchem (LD11), Kern (LD20), Livingston (LD22). Title: “medical marijuana cultivation facilities.” This one is the greatest threat to the medical marijuana industry as a whole with long reaching consequences for the future of all legal marijuana cultivation in Arizona if passed. Impressively it accomplishes this feat by merely adding 9 words to the description of where marijuana can be cultivated commercially. Only 5 of which have teeth. The key 5 are “Roofed” & “Has a Hardened Covering.” “Roofed” means no outdoor grow and “has a hardened covering” is ambiguous enough to mean a variety of things including a prohibition on hoop houses, plastic sheathing such as Mylar or Visqueen and if it is all about the “security” of the building from would-be burglars, are glass or plastic panels hardened enough to prevent entry? Aggressive law enforcement officers might say no.
Again the standard of proof to challenge that this furthers the intent of the law is pretty darn low. Also with medical marijuana accounting for over 19 tons of sales as part of the health regimen of almost 100,000 patients in the state and legal marijuana for adult use on the way about to explode the market, the possibility of legally sustaining a statewide usage on indoor alone is logistically an impossibility. Trust that the industry will rise to find its backbone to fight this one.
Likelihood of passing: POSSIBLE, NOT LIKELY <40%
Once again, these bills can be derailed with sufficient public outcry. They require changes to the Prop 203 Medical Marijuana Act and that will require 3/4s vote from both houses of the state legislature. Citizen pushback can stop them in their tracks.
Contact your legislator today: call, email, Facebook, Twitter. Sign up to testify on a bill and schedule a meeting with your legislator. Make them explain themselves. Visit the AZ State Legislature website to learn more about the process. Don’t know what legislature district you live in? Check Here.
If you should decide to schedule a meeting with your legislators, Arizona NORML would be happy to assist you in preparing for and attending the meeting. Contact 928-234-5633 for further details.
|Olivia Cajero Bedford
|Resigned on 12/15/2015
President Pro Tempore
Assistant Minority Leader
|David C. Farnsworth
|Resigned on 9/30/2015
|Andrew C. Sherwood