Legislative Attacks on Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act

Its often been said that “Arizona is never more in danger than while the Legislature is in session.”  And as if to prove the old adage true, our august representatives are scheming to scuttle the Will of the People once more as regards medical marijuana.  Given that this is Medical Marijuana (activism) Week, now seems an appropriate time to review what we’re up against:

A chilling effect on recommending doctors?  HB 2035, sponsored by Legislative District (“LD”) 10 Representative Kimberly Yee (R), aims to do just that by threatening to charge physicians with “unprofessional conduct” if they recommend MMJ for anything other than an “accepted medical purpose.”  Accepted under whose definition?  It doesn’t say.

Rep Matt Heinz, LD 29 (D), a practicing family doctor, characterizes Yee’s bill as a “solution in search of a problem.”  Not surprisingly, its support runs along party lines, so it looks likely to go to the Governor for signing.

Another bill would prohibit community college or university students, faculty and staff from using or even carrying their medicine on campus.  HB 2349 by Representative Amanda Reeve (R) of LD 6 maintains that patients exercising their rights under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act puts these institutions at risk of losing their federal funding.  Nevermind that no such threat has been made, much less carried out, against educational institutions in any other medical marijuana state.

Saving the worst for last, the boldest attack upon both the spirit and letter of Prop 203 is HB 2350; it was also run by Rep. Reeve.  Note the past tense; the langauge of this particular outrage has since been replaced by another, totally unrelated bill – a funny bit of legislative business known as a “strike all amendment,” aka “striker.”  Strikers are a regular part of the process (although if more Arizonans knew about the practice they might well force and end to it).

HB 2350 sought to prohibit the “transfer of anything of value” in exchange for cannabis, thereby eliminating the “reasonable reimbursement” clause relied upon by caregivers – which would certainly cause problems for dispensaries as well.  Fortunately, this bill is no longer active, but understand that nothing is ever really and truly dead at the Lege…

Both Reeve bills almost certainly foul the Voter Protection Act of 1998, designed to provide a sturdy firewall against legislative mischief.  The VPA requires that a 2/3 majority (of both the House and Senate) support the measure, which, given the lopsided nature of our legislature, is not a high hurdle.  The other salient criterion, however, does protect that which the People have said they wanted: any bill amending a voter-approved initiative must further the purposes of the measure – a test House Bills 2349 and 2350 clearly fail.

So the campus prohibition bill, although likely to clear the legislative process and land on Brewer’s desk, is contrary to Arizona Constitution Article IV, Part 1, Sec. 1 – but it’ll take legal action to place the $64,000 question before a judge.  I hope someone with sufficiently deep pockets comes forward to press the case.

Advocacy: Americans For Safe Access (ASA) has some suggestions for this week’s advocacy activities.  I suggest placing an emphasis on the Arizona Legislature as well, for as former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill counseled, “all politics is local.”

Doug Banfelder is a commercial insurance agent specializing in the medical marijuana industry.  Reach him at [email protected]; www.PremierDispensaryInsurance.com or 480-315-9051

By |2015-04-06T18:53:11-07:00February 12th, 2012|AZ Legislation, Stories & Articles|Comments Off on Legislative Attacks on Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act

In the MMJ Biz? Congratulations, you’re in Politics, too!

Medical Marijuana is a remarkable mashup of public policy, hardball politics and popular culture. These characteristics make it rewarding, challenging, sometimes scary and oftentimes frustrating – and it will be so for the foreseeable future.

Those close to the issue, either as patients or businesspeople, know very well how political it all is.  We have seen that what the ballot box giveth, elected officials gone rogue can quickly take away.  Clearly, anti-Prop 203 leaders Carolyn Short, Edward Gogek, et al won’t rest until the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is undone, with many observers expecting a repeal effort aimed at the November 2012 ballot.

And yet… the clinics are open, patients and caregivers are getting cards, and many of the businesses that sprang up (or adapted) to serve the envisioned dispensaries hang on, determined to outlast prohibitionists’ efforts to create doubt among the public via governmental meddling and slanted media coverage.

So what should be our response?  The answer is simple, but not easy.  What’s needed is a proactive grassroots strategy: registering voters, lobbying State and local elected officials, targeted, well-crafted public relations campaigns, and more, all with the goal of moving public acceptance well beyond original Prop 203 levels.  It can be done.

By |2012-01-14T16:53:02-07:00September 5th, 2011|Miscellaneous|Comments Off on In the MMJ Biz? Congratulations, you’re in Politics, too!
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