BY MIKEL WEISSER
After languishing in the House Rules Committee for a grueling five weeks, SB1494, Sen David Gowan’s hard-fought-for testing bill is back in action. In a unanimous procedural vote Thursday April 25, the 8-member committee ruled that SB1494 is indeed consistent with the state Constitution. This was the embattled bill’s last hurdle before facing a final House floor vote in the coming weeks.
At the legislature, the House and Senate Rules Committees serve as legislative grammarians, blocking bills that would contradict or accidentally conflict with other state statutes. House Rules Committee chair, Rep Anthony Kern (R-LD20), had been holding up dozens of bills on a wide variety of topics. At one point over 70 bills were locked up in his committee. SB1494 was one of six bills approved en masse.
Gowan’s testing bill, the only survivor out of four testing bills filed this session, would require all cannabis products sold in AZ be tested for health and safety standards and that DHS create a protocols, protections and licensing for independent cannabis testing facilities to do those tests. Currently labs test at their own risk and there are no provisions in the state medical marijuana laws regarding the product purity of cannabis products sold to AZ’s nearly 200,000 patients.
The testing bill was heavily amended during its floor vote to clear the Senate. That set the ADA into motion with their own set of proposed amendments. AZ DHS got in on the action and made their own demands including a delayed start date and suggested contamination limits. Dr Randy Friese (D-LD9) took up the cause and threatened to block Democratic Caucus support unless the amendments were included.
Over the past two weeks, Gowan’s and Friese’s supporters have been meeting with industry leaders and testing company owners to fine tune the language of the proposed amendments. Because the bill amends AMMA, the state’s medical marijuana program, which was created by a citizens’ initiative, it must receive 3/4s approval to pass.
If the amended bill should pass the House, however, it will still have to go back to the Senate to approve the new House amendments before the bill could be sent to the governor. Gov. Ducey has indicated his support for the idea of testing. AZ is the only state out of 33 with medical marijuana programs that does not require testing for cannabis products sold to medical patients.
–Mikel Weisser is the editor of the Arizona Cannabis Monthly and state director of Arizona NORML.