Multiple marijuana measures introduced for 2018 session
Last update: January 29, 2018
The Arizona Legislature began its 2018 legislative session on January 8, and lawmakers immediately had several marijuana bills to consider. Unfortunately, many would undermine the existing medical marijuana program.
HB 2068 would allow prosecutors to determine whether individuals on parole or probation can access medical marijuana, despite a 2015 state Supreme Court decision that held medical marijuana could not be withheld from patients under those circumstances. Another bill, SB 1060, would make it a felony and a $10,000 fine for anyone who publishes the address of a dispensary that is different from that on file, including typos!
Meanwhile, in a move toward improving marijuana policies, Rep. Mark Cardenas has introduced HB 2014, which would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to $100. Please urge your state legislators to support HB 2014!
Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.
Medical marijuana in Arizona
On November 2, 2010, Arizona voters enacted a medical marijuana initiative — Proposition 203 — with 50.13% of the vote. Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) finalized dispensary and registry identification card regulations on March 28, 2011. On April 14, 2011, it began accepting applications for registry cards that provide patients and their caregivers with protection from arrest. DHS was preparing to accept dispensary applications starting in June and to register one dispensary for every 10 pharmacies in the state, totaling 125. However, on May 27, 2011, Gov. Jan Brewer led a federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment on whether Arizona’s new medical marijuana program conflicted with federal law. Her lawsuit was rejected in 2012.
To qualify under Arizona’s program, patients must have one of the listed debilitating medical conditions: cancer; HIV/AIDS; hepatitis C; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; agitation of Alzheimer’s disease; PTSD; or a medical condition that produces wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms.
Registered patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and may designate one caregiver to possess it on their behalf. Arizona’s law also provides that any patient living 25 miles or more away from a dispensary can cultivate marijuana. Those allowed to cultivate can grow up to 12 plants. Arizona honors visiting patients’ out-of-state registry identification cards for up to 30 days, but they are not valid for obtaining marijuana.
The law also includes extensive civil discrimination protections for medical marijuana patients in the areas of employment, housing, education, organ transplants, and child custody, visitation, and parental rights.
The Arizona Legislature has rolled back some of Prop. 203’s protections, like possibly allowing an employer to fire a medical marijuana patient based on a report alleging workplace impairment from a colleague who is “believed to be reliable.” The legislature also passed H.B. 2585, which contradicts Prop. 203 by adding medical marijuana patient data to the prescription drug-monitoring program. In 2015, the legislature undermined patient protections again with the passage of H.B. 2346, which specifies that nothing requires a provider of workers’ compensation benefits to reimburse a person for costs associated with the medical use of marijuana.
In September 2017, the Arizona Department of Child Services issued a new regulation saying that if an individual is a medical marijuana patient, then he or she would not be eligible to become a foster parent.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Arizona, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s alerts, if you haven’t done so already.