In the very first week of the new legislative session, the AZ State Legislature began the process of attempting to solve the AZ Concentrates Crisis by filing a bill to change the state’s criminal laws regarding marijuana. As previously reported, confusion over the cannabis definition, commonly referred to as the Jones Case, has resulted in criminal charges for patients around the state, even cancer patients who are using medical marijuana extracts to cope with the side effects of their treatment.
On Wed, the 16th LD 21 Rep. Tony Rivero (R) filed HB2149, a bill that redefines both cannabis and marijuana to have uniform definitions across the criminal code. Submitting HB 2149 for legislative consideration, Rep. Rivero released this statement: “It’s simple, the voters have spoken. Part of the law defines marijuana and another part defines cannabis – one is legal, and the other is criminally unclear. Frankly, if it quacks and floats, it’s a duck,” Rivero said. “Let’s not play games with the will of the voters, their intent in the 2010 election was clear regardless of how some might feel about it.”
Since the appeals court ruling in June on a 2012 arrest in Yavapai County, the ruling in the Jones Case “criminalized” children with epilepsy who rely on concentrated cannabis products and threatened numerous other vulnerable medical marijuana patient populations. While state Attorney General Mark Brnovich withdrew the AG’s office from the case in November, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk has vowed to continue the trial all the way to the state Supreme Court, which is scheduled to begin oral arguments mid-March.
Rep. Rivero is outraged the legal confusion has created so much misery, in addition to being a massive waste of precious court and tax payer resources, “It has caused tremendous confusion in our courts,” Rivero explained, “including in our Arizona Supreme Court, who has ruled in 2014, 2015, and 2016 that it does not differentiate between medical marijuana and cannabis; [meanwhile] separate Arizona Courts of Appeal have ruled contradictorily on the same legal issue.”
Additionally, defining “cannabis” as a narcotic drug conflicts with the recently passed Industrial Hemp Bill (SB 1098), passed last year during Arizona 53rd legislature’s second session. After years of effort, the legislature passed Sen. Sonny Borrelli’s SB 1098 with a majority of 56-3 in the House and 29-1 in the Senate and the state Dept. of Agriculture is expected to begin licensing hemp farmers by May. In December 2018 when the U.S. Farm Bill was signed into law by President Trump, hemp was defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
The first of two “cannabis definitions bills” expected to be filed this session, Rivero feels confident about gaining legislative support for the measure: “This bill corrects what voters intended and complies with federal definitions related to hemp,” Rivero reiterated. “Elected officials and prosecutors have long rued the day when they thought they could poke voters in the eye, let’s just fix this and move on.”
Republican District 21