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Testing Bill Wins Again

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BY ACM STAFF

Friday morning March 29, on the last possible day it could be heard in committee, Sen. David Gowan’s SB1494 decidedly passed out of the House Health and Human Services Committee, 8-0. A string of expert witnesses provided testimony on the importance of creating state-mandated testing for medical marijuana products sold in the AMMA compliant dispensaries.

In addition to the bill sponsor, Sen Gowan, and, Brett Mechem, the lobbyist negotiating the legislative process, the committee heard from DHS representatives, several testing labs owners, a mother of a pediatric patient, Arizona NORML, and Jim Morrison of the Errl Cup. Even a lobbyist for the notorious prohibitionist group, MATFORCE showed up to testify in support of the bill. During Morrison’s testimony, the Errl Cup founder distributed copies of the microbial test results from recent competitions that showed page after page of Arizona’s top name dispensaries failing the mold test.

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As exciting as the 8-0 vote was, however, SB1494 still has big hurdles ahead. Not testifying were many industry lobbyists who signed in opposing the bill. (To learn more you can find the legislative summary of the hearing posted in the House Health and Human Services Committee minutes here.) Shannon Whiteaker of DHS also testified that the agency is seeking additional guidance on testing protocols and asking for a delayed date to implement the program.

Phoenix Rep. Kelly Butler took up Tucson Rep. Dr Randy Friese’s call to add an additional “legislative intent” amendment requiring any future marijuana programs (i.e. the coming 2020 adult use initiative) incorporate the same standards as the medical marijuana testing program. Friese has promised to take up the issue when the bill comes up for its floor vote later in the session.

Bill sponsor Gowan has also suggested Friese’s proposed amendments could be placed in a “striker bill.” Strikers remove or strike the language of a different bill that is still viable and replace it with entirely new language, in this case Friese’s amendments. It’s unclear whether either DHS or Friese and his allies will find that approach sufficient.

In the meantime, as the legislative pace slows while the legislators are preparing for the annual budget battles, bill sponsors and cannabis organizations are calling on the public to weigh in on the fate of the testing bill by contacting their state legislators asap and asking them to support SB1494. You can find out who your legislators are here and get their phone numbers and email addresses here.

Meanwhile in the Legislative Ash Heap …

If you’ve been following cannabis reform at the Capitol you know when the session started, there were a record breaking 31 cannabis-related bills filed. Most are dead. Five criminal justice reform bills, three different testing bills, three card cost bills, two autism-as-a-qualifying-condition bills and two additional cannabis definitions bills (“cannabis definitions” is the technical term for concentrates protections), all dead among the wreckage.

As the legislators finish up their process of working their way through the 1289 bills filed this session, here are some of the highlights so far and some of the cannabis-related bills we’ve been watching.

SB1003 (Hemp Acceleration Bill) signed by governor. Program begins June 1. SEE related article here.

SB1286 (Rural Dispensaries Bill) Cleared Senate and House Public Affairs Committee, still stuck in House Rules. Due to be heard Monday, April 8.

SCR1021 (Omnibus Voter Referendum) Cleared Senate, stopped in House Rules & Health and Human Services committees. Packed with various bells and whistles from other MMJ reform bills, this referendum was aiming to confuse voters about the expected 2020 legalization initiative. Luckily this one is NOW DEAD.

HB2149 (Cannabis Definitions Bill) Cleared first House committee stuck in House Rules since 2/20/19. NOW DEAD, but … the guts of this bill are still rattling around. Watch to see if this provision makes its way onto another cannabis bill during the final floor votes.

–ACM Staff

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