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Arizona lawmakers look to regulate legal marijuana

In this Dec. 6, 2012 file photo Michael Cardenas shows medical marijuana he purchase outside Arizona Organix, the first legal medical marijuana dispensary to open in Glendale, Ariz. Supporters of medical marijuana in Minnesota say they plan to push for legalized medical marijuana in 2013 arguing that medical decisions should be left to doctors rather than police. Seventeen states, including Arizona, and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and Colorado and Washington recently legalized marijuana possession for adults with small amounts of the drug. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

In this Dec. 6, 2012 file photo Michael Cardenas shows medical marijuana he purchase outside Arizona Organix, the first legal medical marijuana dispensary to open in Glendale, Ariz. Supporters of medical marijuana in Minnesota say they plan to push for legalized medical marijuana in 2013 arguing that medical decisions should be left to doctors rather than police. Seventeen states, including Arizona, and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and Colorado and Washington recently legalized marijuana possession for adults with small amounts of the drug. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Arizona lawmakers want to overhaul the state’s medical marijuana law.

One lawmaker would shut down dispensaries that use unclear labels for its food products. Another measure would allow colleges and universities to conduct medical marijuana research. A third would allow county zoning ordinances to apply to marijuana cultivation.

“It was the voters that clearly supported medical marijuana in Arizona, so it’s the job of the Legislature to ensure that the law is being implemented properly,” said Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix.

Arizona voters approved medical marijuana by about 4,300 votes in 2010, authorizing its use for cancer and certain other medical conditions. The Department of Health Services oversees Arizona’s medical marijuana program and regulates dispensaries where patients and caregivers can legally buy marijuana. More than 35,000 people in Arizona have medical marijuana cards.

Marijuana proponents have cautiously watched the debate over the proposed regulations. They support any action that allows the state to carry out the intent of the law, so long as the measures don’t limit medical marijuana access.

“When voters approve medical marijuana laws, it’s because they support allowing seriously ill people to use marijuana in the treatment of their conditions,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that pushed for passage of the 2010 law. “There’s no reason to believe they have changed that position and we need to move forward and establish a workable system.”

Paul Harrison, manager of the dispensary CMG Clinics, said he has seen many cancer patients since the Phoenix treatment center opened.

“It’s all kinds of deliberating conditions,” he said.

An effort to repeal the medical marijuana law has not moved forward in the House.

Another measure moving forward in the Senate would allow police to dispose of medical marijuana seized during a criminal investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona opposed the measure during a recent committee meeting.

Yee is behind the measures to restrict marijuana food labels, allow colleges to use marijuana in research and allow police to get rid of confiscated medical marijuana. She said the 2010 measure approved by voters didn’t offer enough guidance to protect consumers or allow law enforcement to do its job.

She said medical marijuana food products, such as lollipops, brownies, ice cream and gummy candy, appeal to children and need to carry appropriate warning labels.

“They look like chocolate bars with very vibrantly colored labels that really do appear to appeal to young children,” she said.

Yee said police shouldn’t have to return seized medical marijuana because it is an unnecessary burden to require officers to cultivate marijuana plants during an investigation.

2 comments

  1. Dear Cristina Silva,

    Please do some basic research. Your article contains a gross mistake. You cite “CMG Clinics” as a “dispensary” in Phoenix. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services there is not a single licensed dispensary in the City of Phoenix. There is only one licensed dispensary in the Phoenix Metro area. That dispensary, AZ Organix, is located in Glendale.

    “CMG Clinics” is an illegal compassion club. They are not licensed by the state. They do not follow the state laws. They have no governing authority to ensure that they pay taxes, are properly zoned, have a business license, do not sell to children, properly label their products or otherwise.

    You were duped into thinking that “compassion clubs” are the same as state licensed, taxed, regulated and controlled dispensaries.

    It is a shame that most of our elected officials do not understand the difference either. Perhaps they should spend some time to understand the law before they start start meddling with changes to the law. For example, dispensaries are already required to label all products. In fact the existing rules regarding labeling exceed those proposed by Senator Yee.

    Furthermore, the law enforcement community – starting with Bill Montgomery – has done very little to actually enforce state law. There are approximately 50 of these illegal unlicensed “compassion clubs” operating in the Phoenix metro area. Law enforcement is doing nothing to shut them down. If Senator Yee really wants to make a difference, perhaps she should start with pushing for actual enforcement of the law rather than try to pass new rules that won’t apply to those already breaking the law.

    Respectfully,
    Henry Bowman

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