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Arizona Lawmakers Approve Bill To Allow Interstate Marijuana Commerce



An Arizona House committee has approved a bill to authorize interstate marijuana commerce, pending a change in federal policy.

After initially rejecting the legislation from Rep. Justin Wilmeth (R) in a split 5-5 vote on Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee reconsidered the measure later in the meeting, reversing course and approving it, 6-4.

If ultimately enacted, Arizona would be joining three other West coast states—California, Oregon and Washington State—that have already adopted laws allowing their governors to enter into agreements to permit marijuana imports and exports between consenting jurisdictions, all of which are principally contingent on federal law changing or guidance explicitly tolerating the commerce.

“The reason I’m running this is because I’m a big believer in interstate commerce,” Wilmeth, who chairs the committee, said at the hearing. “And my understanding is, if we don’t do something like this before the feds legalize it, then we would have to wait a year, maybe two years, for our statute to catch up to whatever the feds do.”

“They could legalize it next week or in 10 years. We really don’t know. But the point of me running this bill this year, this moment, is to be prepared so that when it does come, we can go off to the races and our marijuana industry can be be successful and beneficial in every way possible,” the chairman said. “Obviously, that topic is divisive. Some people don’t like marijuana. I’ve never used this stuff. I don’t care for it either. But that’s not the question of this bill today. It is merely about the commercial commerce side of it.”

Under the Arizona bill, interstate cannabis commerce agreements would need to “ensure enforceable public health and safety standards and include a system to regulate and track the interstate delivery of marijuana and marijuana products.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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The head of the Department of Health Services (DHS) would be required to notify the legislature if federal policy changes in a way that meets the bill’s conditions for implementation.

California’s interstate commerce law that was enacted in 2022 provided more flexibility, allowing the governor to initiate the import and export agreements if the state attorney general issued a legal opinion saying there would be insignificant risk of federal enforcement action over the potential arrangements.

However, California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s (D) office ultimately concluded last December that it could not rule out that possible federal response.

Oregon was the first state to enact interstate marijuana commerce legislation in 2019, followed by Washington State last year.

Meanwhile, last month plaintiffs in a federal court case centered on cross-border marijuana trade voluntarily withdrew their lawsuit against the state of Oregon, providing no public explanation for the move beyond saying that “big things are coming on this front very soon.”

Other states where cannabis is legal have considered passing similar legislation to allow cross-border trade.

For example, New Jersey’s Senate president reintroduced an interstate marijuana commerce bill last month. And a legislative committee in Maine rejected similar legislation, but the chair said the matter could be revisited through another vehicle.

While the federal government hasn’t weighed in on state-sanctioned interstate marijuana commerce, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said last year that the Justice Department is “still working on a marijuana policy.”

To that end, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the CSA, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in the process of completing its review before making a final determination.

Moving cannabis to Schedule III could have a wide range of policy impacts, but it’s unclear what, if anything, it would mean for the possibility of interstate cannabis commerce given that marijuana would remain federally illegal even if it’s reclassified.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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