A ballot measure to legalize marijuana in Arizona in 2020 that has the support of major industry stakeholders was filed with the secretary of state on Friday.
The Smart & Safe Arizona Initiative would allow individuals 21 and older to possess, consume, cultivate and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. It would also create a pathway for individuals with prior convictions to have their records expunged and proposes using some tax revenue from legal sales to invest in communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
Other revenue, which will be raised in part through a 16 percent excise tax on marijuana sales, would go toward the state’s community colleges and also fund public health and safety programs as well as infrastructure projects.
Several provisions would directly benefit the medical marijuana companies currently operating in Arizona and who are supporting the initiative. For example, existing dispensaries in good standing with the state would get licensing priority to establish adult-use shops, with the Department of Health Services randomly selecting licensees for additional retailers after those are approved.
Dispensary chains MedMen, Harvest Health and Recreation and Curaleaf Holdings are reportedly among those funding the new legalization campaign.
But while the measure includes certain industry-friendly provisions, advocates applauded its inclusion of a home cultivation option. A medical cannabis industry association based in New York faced backlash from advocates earlier this year after it was reported that it sent a document to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recommending that the state prevent consumers from growing their own marijuana at home.
MedMen was among the companies listed as members of the association at the time, though a representative later told Marijuana Moment that the business supports giving adults the right to grow their own cannabis.
There are some significant restrictions on edibles included in the initiative. Marijuana products that look like candy marketed toward children (i.e. gummy bears and gummy worms) wouldn’t be allowed. And edibles would be limited to 10mg per serving.
For social justice-minded advocates, including equity provisions that acknowledge and attempt to repair the harms of the drug war, particularly on communities of color, is critical to any legalization system. To that end, the Smart & Safe Arizona Initiative takes steps to address the issue.
Individuals with prior low-level cannabis convictions would be empowered to petition for an expungement, and if those applicants meet the requirements to have their records cleared, they must be approved unless law enforcement proactively intervenes and provides “clear and convincing evidence” that the petitioner is ineligible.
Marijuana tax revenue that’s deposited in a new “Justice Reinvestment Fund” would be used to fund grants for equity-centric programs within county health departments and the state health services department.
The initiative defines “justice reinvestment programs” that would qualify for grants as those that support “jail diversion, workforce development, industry specific technical assistance and mentoring services” for disproportionately impacted communities, those that address “the underlying causes of crime and reducing the prison population,” those that facilitate expungements and those that provide “evidence-based” substance abuse treatment.
“I’m encouraged to see major initiatives include expungement and community investment as vital pieces of the proposal,” Jason Ortiz, vice president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, told Marijuana Moment. “This is yet another example of social equity programs being the gold standard for any legalization bill, and we look forward to more closely reviewing this initiative and offering our support to help advance justice for communities of color in Arizona.”
Mikel Weisser, state director of Arizona NORML, told Marijuana Moment that “this language serves as both a 2019 state-of-the-art cannabis program and reflects the mindset of the ‘average’ Arizona voter.”
“I do not expect the concerns we faced from the existing cannabis community about insufficient provisions,” Weisser said. “This round the campaign is trying to reach out to a MUCH wider community. Arizona has shifted towards supporting cannabis in general and this language better reflects the real life experience of the cannabis consuming public than 2016 did.”
Arizona ACLU board member Roopali Desai, along with advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance and Law Enforcement Action Partnership, helped draft the initiative language while soliciting input from multiple industry stakeholders, according to Arizona Cannabis Monthly.
Advocates must collect 237,645 valid signatures from voters by July 2, 2020 in order to put the measure on the ballot.
While the marijuana reform movement has scored numerous victories throughout the ballot process in recent years, Arizona activists face a unique challenge given that the state’s voters rejected a legalization proposal in 2016 and only narrowly approved a medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2010.
Also working against organizers is the fact that Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is no fan of legalization and recently applauded the rejection of the 2016 measure.
With industry backing and a growing appetite for reform nationwide, however, it seems likely that activists will have more to work with heading into 2020 if the measure qualifies for the ballot.
Read the full text of the proposed Arizona marijuana legalization initiative below:
Photo by Sam Doucette on Unsplash.
Andrew Yang Contrasts Rampant Opioid Prescribing With Marijuana Criminalization
Andrew Yang contrasted the widespread prescribing of opioids with the ongoing criminalization of marijuana on Wednesday.
In a tweet, the entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said there were “more opiate prescriptions in the state of Ohio than people in Ohio,” yet “marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug” under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
#DidYouKnow – There were more opiate prescriptions in the state of Ohio than people in Ohio. But marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) December 11, 2019
He’s brought that point up before, at a presidential debate in October. Asked about his proposed to decriminalize possession of opioids to combat the drug overdose crisis, Yang brought up the statistic and criticized the government for failing to take action against pharmaceutic companies that aggressively marketed addictive painkillers.
“If the government turned a blind eye to this company, spreading a plague among its people, then the least we can do is put a resource into work in our communities so that people have a fighting chance to get well, even though this is not a money problem,” he said at the time.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) October 16, 2019
NBC News confirmed that, in 2010, federal data shows there were 102.4 opioid prescriptions in Ohio for every 100 persons. That’s decreased since then, with 2017 data showing 63.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons in the state.
Yang, who supports comprehensive marijuana legalization, has also embraced other harm reduction policies. Beyond decriminalizing opioids, he said in an interview published last week that he’s in favor of providing federal funding for the establishment of safe injection facilities, where individuals can use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive assistance getting into treatment.
Yang has not yet called for decriminalization of substances beyond opioids and cannabis, however. That policy is backed by rival contenders South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, also presidential candidates, have called for the establishment of safe injection sites.
Photo courtesy of ABC News.
Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed In Virginia Ahead Of Attorney General’s Cannabis Summit
The attorney general of Virginia held a cannabis summit on Wednesday, with representatives of states that have legalized marijuana sharing their insights as lawmakers in the Commonwealth prepare to push reform legislation in the coming session.
This event came one day after a lawmaker prefiled a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use and expand the state’s existing limited medical cannabis program.
The event featured panels on marijuana decriminalization, social equity, public health, hemp, CBD and creating a pathway for eventual legalization. The goal was to answer policy questions and inform legislation, which Attorney General Mark Herring (D) hopes will start with decriminalization and expungements and later adult-use legalization.
Herring: “I don’t believe Virginia’s current system of needlessly criminalizing cannabis is working. The negative consequences of the current approach fall disproprtionately on African Americans and other people of color.”
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) December 11, 2019
“I don’t believe that Virginia’s current approach of criminalizing cannabis is working,” Herring said in his opening remarks. “It is needlessly creating criminals and burdening Virginians with convictions.”
Today we're bringing together legislators, stakeholders, and policy experts to plot a course for a smarter, fairer, more just cannabis policy in VA. For me, that means decriminalizing now, resolving past convictions, & moving to legal, regulated adult use.https://t.co/aqWxQCVPIg
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) December 11, 2019
“The human and social costs are enormous, in addition to the millions of dollars it costs Virginia taxpayers. And the negative consequences of the current approach fall disproportionately on African Americans and people of color,” he said. “It’s clear to me that the time for cannabis reform has come. Justice demands it. Virginians are demanding it. And I’m going to help make sure we get this right.”
Watch video of the Virginia Cannabis Summit below:
Representatives from Colorado and Illinois discussed law enforcement and equity in regulated marijuana markets.
The prospects of passing reform measures greatly increased in Virginia after November’s election, which saw Democrats reclaim control of both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in decades. Herring said the timing is right to “plot a course for a smarter, fairer, more just cannabis policy” in the state.
Sen. Dave Marsden (D), co-founder of the legislature’s recently established Cannabis Caucus, said at the summit that ensuring that the legal market is equitable is paramount.
.@SenDaveMarsden, who co-founded the new Cannabis Caucus, says focusing on equity will be important. “We can’t substitute a civil process for a criminal one and not expect it to lead to disparities,” he says of decriminalization, noting how people of color still impacted most.
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) December 11, 2019
“We can’t substitute a civil process for a criminal one and not expect it to lead to disparities,” he said.
“Following several years of forming consensus around medical cannabis products, we have to be ready to take action in the upcoming legislative session to further reform our laws in this arena,” he said in a press release. “This effort will include a more robust medical cannabis program and Attorney General Herring’s summit is a big step in ensuring we are knowledgeable on the issue and prepared to do this right.”
“Virginia is ready for evidence-based reform and that is what we will provide.”
Del. Stephen Heretick (D) said the summit “is a great opportunity for me and my fellow legislators to learn from the experiences of other states as we consider how to create more fair, just, equitable, and effective cannabis laws here in Virginia.”
Decriminalization is the first proposal on the agenda when the next session starts, the attorney general said. That would fulfill a campaign promise of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who ran on the issue in 2017 and talked about in his State of the Commonwealth address this year.
“It’s time for public policy to catch up with public opinion, and NORML applauds Attorney General Herring for his efforts to foster and advance evidence-based cannabis laws,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML said. “We look forward to supporting the attorney general and the Virginia Cannabis Caucus in their work reforming marijuana laws for a safer Commonwealth.”
While Northam hasn’t voiced support for recreational legalization, Herring said last week that Wednesday’s summit is one resource that will help the state move toward comprehensive reform.
“Criminalizing marijuana possession is not working.” Attorney General @MarkHerringVA said he will host a #cannabis summit to advance decriminalization in Virginia. #CheddarLive pic.twitter.com/ecB4BSQo5w
— Cheddar (@cheddar) December 3, 2019
“Based on my conversations, he supports decriminalization,” Herring, who is also running for governor in 2021, said. “Like a lot of people, I think they’d like to get more information about what legalization and what regulated, adult-use would look like.”
A bill to decriminalize marijuana and make possession of up to one ounce punishable by a maximum $50 civil penalty was prefiled in the legislature last month.
This latest legalization bill, introduced by Del. Lee Carter (D), will likely be a heavier lift. It would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers, and it would impose a 10 percent tax, revenue from which would go toward a veterans fund, transportation and local municipalities that allow marijuana businesses to operate.
“While a majority of Virginians agree with Attorney General Herring that marijuana should be legal for responsible use by adults, it may take a bit more work to convince the Virginia General Assembly to send such a bill to the governor’s desk,” Michelle Pedini told Marijuana Moment. “Todays summit is an important, and historic, step toward that goal, and NORML is proud to be a part of it.”
Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.
Thailand Prime Minister Uses Medical Marijuana At Event With Ganja Mascot
Top officials in Thailand are getting the word out about medical marijuana—in part by distributing cartoon cannabis dolls and publicly using marijuana oils.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced the launch of the government’s medical cannabis education site on Wednesday and appeared at an event alongside a person wearing a spectacled marijuana leaf costume called Dr. Ganja. Children were also present, carrying their own Dr. Ganja dolls.
The Thai government officially launches its medical cannabis "educational" website today.https://t.co/zhzZU61q3c
The Prime Minister gets a ganja doll, kids get a ganja doll, everybody gets a ganja doll!
Photo credit: Bhumjaithai Party pic.twitter.com/lVf1WTguqQ
— Prim Chuwiruch (@prim_chuwiruch) December 11, 2019
Prayut argued in favor of the therapeutic use of cannabis, stating that it represents a potential treatment option for low-income people in particular. According to The Nation Thailand, he also demonstrated marijuana products, inhaling an oil and applying some to the back of his ears. The prime minister also said he plans to purchase some oils himself.
The government’s education site features information about where to find cannabis clinics, what kinds of products are available and infographics laying out basic research into marijuana.
Thai lawmakers have made clear their excitement about medical cannabis, with several filmed participating in a ritual dance in August to celebrate the first batch of marijuana oil.
— Reuters Latam (@ReutersLatam) August 8, 2019
Months after Thailand opted to legalize medical marijuana, the ruling party unveiled draft legislation in September that allows individuals to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use.
Photo courtesy of Bhumjaithai Party.