As of 1/10/19, AZ-NORML was aware of only one cannabis-related draft bill has been presented to the public at the Capitol. There are, however, several other cannabis-related bills said to be in the works. Rumors have now expanded that number to double digits

  1. MITA-AZ AMMA Omnibus Reform Bill–Prepared for Rep Dr. Randy Friese (LD9) by General Legislative Counsel, Michelle Hanigberg and lobbyist Tory Roberg, representing MITA-AZ, this bill takes many of the ideas from Sen Sonny Borrelli’s 2018 SB1420 and revamps them using new technical consultants. Sponsors Reps Friese and Diego Espinoza LD19) held a stakeholder meeting 12/17 to introduce the bill. DHS, AZ-NORML, the American Legion and multiple dispensary lobbyists attended the presentation by Friese, Roberg, Hanigberg and Lezlie Engleking of F.O.C.U.S., an industry watchdog group that assisted with the technical writing. This ambitious omnibus package includes multiple reforms to the AMMA. Among the highlights–establishing licensing and standards for independent testing labs, extending card duration from one to two years, reciprocity for out-of-state patients allowing them to shop in stores, childproof packaging, limiting caregiver plant counts from 12 to 4 per patient, allowing dispensary agent cards to be attached to the individual agent, not the company, changes to background check requirements for caregivers and dispensary agents, the creation of a standard ratio of flower to concentrate to redefine allowances of “useable marijuana,” and, clarifying that marijuana, “cannabis,” and marijuana extracts are protected under the AMMA. With no GOP allies currently attached to the bill, some controversial components and lingering ill-will from last session’s failed cannabis bills, this bill faced a steep uphill battle to attain the necessary 3/4s support in both houses.
  2. Rumored ADA Omnibus Package–In August the Arizona Dispensary Association (ADA) leadership announced they had so much confidence in their reform package that they expected to call for a special session to rush it through. Since then rumors are that the proposed bill been scrapped to focus on a 2020 initiative. Among the features expected were a similar establishment of testing and licensing of independent testers, extended card times, and expanded number of health care providers allowed to issue cards. In the wake of the limited success of the MITA-AZ bill, ADA has not made any new public statements on their package.
  3. AZ-NORML Criminal Justice Reform Focus—After years of crafting reforms on a variety of cannabis issues, this session AZ-NORML is solely working on specific reforms in the criminal sentencing of marijuana and cannabis offenses, intending to help craft defelonizing provisions for minor marijuana and cannabis possession charges in an overall sentencing reform package. Currently any marijuana arrest is listed as a class six felony, though most are charged as misdemeanors. “Cannabis” possession, meaning any product made from marijuana extracts or concentrates are class four felonies. AZ-NORML’s proposal is in keeping w recommendations coming out of the sentencing and recidivism subcommittee of the House Judiciary. That committee is calling for defelonizing 4oz or less of marijuana and charging it as a civil offense.
  4. AZ-NORML is further calling for adding a provision to the existing “cannabis” penalties that exempts AMMA participants from prosecution for possession AMMA allowed amounts of “cannabis” or products made w marijuana extracts. This bill has enjoyed discussions from members of the House Judiciary, Rep Rodriguez and the sentencing subcommittee, Reps Engel, Stringer and Rivero and the head of the House Public Safety Committee, Rep Kevin Payne. This bill MAY be withdrawn in light of the AZ Supreme Court’s January 8th announcement that they will hear the Rodney Jones Concentrates Case. This bill would NOT require a 3/4s vote for approval. (This will be AZ-NORML’s 6th attempt on defelonization.)
  5. AZ-NORML–Separately, in the wake of the appeals court ruling in the Jones Case, AZ-NORML is calling for a government-wide requirement that, when laws or court rulings change criminal penalties for behaviors by participants in state-regulated industries, that the governing state agency be required to report these changes to the licensed participants. To explain, if the legislature or a court should criminalize aspects of a state regulated program (such as the use of a specific product or technique), the state agency overseeing that particular program should be required to inform the program’s participants to educate them of the rule change, thus protecting them from prosecution for rules changes that made their previously accepted behaviors illegal. In this case, dozens of patients have been arrested and charged w felony narcotics possession for owning marijuana concentrate products they purchased in legal dispensaries. No government agency informed the 180,000 + patients. DHS refused requests to do, saying it was not their responsibility, even though, due to HIPA protections, they were the only agency that could communicate info to MMJ card holders. But this bill would not be AMMA specific. Changes in teacher standards, EMT licensing, or realtor requirements could lead to uninformed members of the public risking criminal penalties. With modern communication networks, the cost impact of this could be minimal, but, more importantly, the public would be informed when governmental decisions affect them. Though this bill would NOT require a 3/4s vote for approval, the idea has no sponsors as of yet.
  6. Pam Powers-Hannley–In both the 2017 and 2018 sessions, Rep Pam Powers-Hannley (LD9) introduced a stand alone measure to extend MMJ cards from one to two years. She is expected to refile this bill. This bill DOES require a 3/4s vote for approval.
  7. Pam Powers-Hannley—Just before the session is set to start, Powers-Hannley was contacted about co-sponsoring a slightly different testing bill with Republican Representative Kevin Payne (LD21) based on Michigan testing standards. These talks were just beginning at press-time.
  8. Sonny Borrelli & David Gowan—For the past 3yrs, Borrelli (LD5) has been a leader in cannabis reform efforts. The lead sponsor on last year’s unsuccessful testing bill, intends to run another effort. Freshly returned LD15 Senator David Gowan has expressed interest in being the lead sponsor. This discussion is still in progress. This bill DOES require a 3/4s vote for approval.
  9. Sonny Borrelli—Sen Borrelli is also aiming to sponsor an Ag bill that will ban various agri-chemicals from being used in any AZ crops. This would trigger a testing requirement in MMJ and several other crops. This bill would NOT require a 3/4s vote for approval.
  10. Speaker Rusty Bowers–A long-time opponent to cannabis reforms, moderated some of his positions during the 2018 testing bill effort and now Bowers (LD25) is rumored to be backing a bill to create a state bank of AZ. That bank would be able to bank cannabis businesses. This bill would NOT require a 3/4s vote for approval.
  11. Sen Vince Leach–There is also a rumored bill, similar to a previous bill from former Rep, now Senator Vince Leach (LD11). This bill would reissue licenses for abandoned rural dispensary CHAAs (DHS service areas), but require those licenses be no-transferrable. The state is currently divided in 126 areas known as CHAAs (Community Health Assessment Areas), each was originally assigned one dispensary license. Currently, dispensaries in rural locations are allowed to relocate, typically to an urban area, after 3yrs in operation. These departures leave rural patients without commercially available marijuana products. Local law enforcement also have complained because the rural patients then regain their cultivation rights. Disabled patients complain because they are incapable of producing their own products and must turn to the black market. This bill WOULD require a 3/4s vote for approval. The idea has no sponsors as of yet.
  12. ???—A second bill on rural dispensaries is rumored to be in the works, but thus far, it’s just a rumor.
  13. THEN, there’s all the anti-cannabis bills we are currently unaware of. Expect the majority of cannabis-related bills pro- or con- to be filed after the January 14th opening day. No bills on any topic will be accepted after the end of the January. Keep watching. We will keep you posted.
Mikel Weisser 
State Director, Arizona NORML

4490 Sundown Dr
So-Hi, AZ 86413