Home / Opinion / Commentary / Opposition to medical marijuana law not a good political prescription

Opposition to medical marijuana law not a good political prescription

Jason Rose

As the father of two young boys, I have great respect for the good work of Keep Arizona Drug Free, even as I may disagree with their political punditry, as expressed in the Feb. 22 commentary “Marijuana legalization is far from inevitable.”

The point of the piece was seemingly to give political safe harbor to elected officials seeking to re-vote and repeal Arizona’s thrice- approved medical marijuana law.

It did so with red herrings, mixing observations about full marijuana legalization and medical marijuana programs.

But the current discussion isn’t about full legalization. It is about whether Arizona voters will be respected and whether a well-regulated medical marijuana program will have a chance to prove itself here.

I do not wish to re-litigate the 2010 campaign that enabled the current program. There are good people and arguments on both sides.

But when an advocacy organization goes astray to mistakenly play political consultant, it justifies a response.

The opinion piece observed that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act “squeaked by” in 2010, yet failed to note it was the most Republican turnout since 1994. If the same matter would have been on the 2012 ballot “handily” might be a more apt description of how it would have passed.

That’s why two different and recent polls show support increasing in Arizona from the margin in 2010. A poll from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed a 22-point increase. A survey of likely voters from Republican-leaning Summit Group showed a 16-point increase.

Others can focus on other states and circumstances. These are the facts in Arizona. Medical marijuana has been approved three times. And the margin of support is growing not diminishing. But others shouldn’t just take our word for it. Take the time, draft good questions and pay for a statewide survey. You will find the results to be no different.

In providing cover to those wanting to insult Arizona voters with repeal, the argument cited disproportionate spending in support of successful campaigns. But wouldn’t that be an indictment of just about every person currently serving in the Arizona State Legislature, most of whom outspent their opponents to win? Support typically flocks to merit. There are exceptions of course, but to suggest medical marijuana has gained approval because of lopsided resources — in the face of opposition from law enforcement and the federal government — is to again insult voter intellect.

And can we finally disabuse the discussion that medical marijuana has contributed to more marijuana use among children since passage? It’s actually gone down according to the Arizona Youth Survey, commissioned by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.

Finally, if readers are confused by the back and forth, perhaps we should engage former U.S. Attorney Melvin McDonald as a referee. On these same pages he wrote one of the most compelling guest columns in defense of any issue — “As a former U.S. attorney, here’s why I support the medical marijuana law,” published Feb. 15. After Mayo, Barrow and UCLA all failed his seizure-plagued son, medical marijuana delivered. Now that’s a person and a story that’s a real chronic pain… for those seeking to deny voters and patients the choices and rights they deserve.

— Jason Rose is president and founder of Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations. The company provides public relations services to the Regulated Dispensaries Association of Arizona.



  1. I appreciate Mr. Rose’s defense of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. He should also reveal his interest as a law partner at Rose Law Group in having a financial interest in the licensed dispensaries. Rose Law Firm is representing Arizona Organix the only licensed dispensary in Phoenix and this dispensary is making beaucoup bucks off the backs of the patients that are now being forced to the market because of efforts by Rose Law Group and others to shut down the collectives and clubs because they are competition for Arizona Organix. In fact Arizona Organix has been selling by the boatload quite a bit of cannabis that is being produced in California and “donated” by caregivers who do not have to prove the provenance of their product. The dispensaries are the problem in our state and it is because of greed that our MMJ program is floundering and look to the lawyers and lobbyists for making this worse. Greed is not good despite what Gordon Gecko and Jalen Rose try to tell us in their opinion puff pieces.

  2. The first time I heard the lame excuse that we can’t re-legalize because we don’t have a “pot breathalyzer” was in 1976 when Jimmy Carter had included decriminalization of petty possession in his campaign platform. Here we are, more than 35 years later and people are still trotting out that tired old nag. Exactly how many decades are needed to invent such a device, if it’s so important? Why is it that people think it’s OK to arrest people who have not and likely will never go out driving impaired in the name of highway safety? It would be sheer absurdity to claim that enjoying cannabis causes everyone who uses it to go out driving impaired. I never do so, and quite simply because I place a high value on being alive and being able to walk from here to there on my own two legs.

    The first State to criminalize drunken driving was New York State in 1910. The breathalyzer was not invented until 1953, and did not become the ubiquitous tool of law enforcement that we know until almost 1970. I assure you, there were plenty of people convicted of impaired driving in the intervening six decades. Today’s Courts and juries have a much easier time returning a conviction because of the now ubiquitous dash cam which allows them to view the field sobriety test.

    If you want 6 months to develop your precious device that might be acceptable. If you want another decade or three then forget about it. You’ve had your chance and decided that the propaganda value of not having such a device was more important. I’m sick and tired of hearing people say that I should be arrested because they’re scared that someone else might go out driving while impaired. You people just have no motivation to develop such a device as long as you can use it’s not existing in propaganda to maintain the idiocy of absolute prohibition. Enough is enough.

  3. Jason,

    Thank you for coming forward with your Guest Opinion.

    Keep AZ Drug Free, driven almost exclusively by Carolyn Short, has been engaged in a campaign of deception and near hysterical fanaticism. It is about time that the facts were brought to light.

    Both cannabis advocates and prohibitionists can point out the various merits and demerits of medical cannabis use. Both sides can adroitly cite studies that bolster their position. But the facts are indisputable.

    The war on marijuana has been a complete law enforcement failure. The black market today can supply more marijuana, higher quality marijuana and lower cost marijuana than ever before. The prohibition of marijuana has only ensured that criminals will prosper. Doesn’t it make more sense to allow a state licensed, taxed and regulated system for those with deemed medical necessity?

    Another indisputable fact is that the prohibition of marijuana eliminates a medical option for those whose doctors may recommend it for a limited number of conditions. For the life of me, I cannot understand those so-called “conservatives” who think it is acceptable for the government to tell patients and doctors what they may and may not recommend.

    Republicans (rightfully) scream bloody murder about Obamacare. But somehow think it is just fine for the government to eliminate a potential option that they happen to disagree with. Hypocrisy at its finest.

    The legalization of medical marijuana should be at the top of every Republican’s list. The issue dovetails with the very core beliefs of conservative compassion – Expand freedom, eliminate wasteful or ineffective government programs and limit government intrusion into personal healthcare decisions.

    Furthermore, Republicans should cheer the very notion of Sates Rights. Whether or not they happen to agree with medical marijuana, Republicans should be championing the voter’s defiance of big federal government policy.

    Henry Bowman

    P.S. I’m a conservative Republican and I don’t smoke pot.

  4. make it legal already and stop all the b.s…….vote out anyone who stands in the way!…time to unite people!…..

  5. i agree republicans are not going to win any elections untill they change their views on medical and legal cannabis use…..

  6. Rewarding sick people and punishing healthy people should not have any place on the GOP agenda. Marijuana should be legalized, plain and simple.

  7. My comments are directed to “Mary Jane.”

    I’m not necessarily a fan of Jason Rose nor his hairstylist/barber. However, some of your comments are factually incorrect and intentionally misleading.

    First, Jason Rose is not an attorney. Nor is he a partner with the Rose Law Group.

    Mr. Rose was hired by AZ Organix to defend the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”) against attacks from the likes of John Kavanaugh and Carolyn Short. He is simply doing what he is paid to do – Public Relations. He seems to be doing a credible job in that effort.

    As to your claim that AZ Organix is obtaining cannabis from California, I doubt this is true. I doubt this because the Arizona Department of Health Services (“DHS”) is charged with the strict oversight of all licensed dispensaries. DHS has strict compliance policies regarding inventory control and how a state licensed dispensary may acquire product. If any state licensed dispensary violates those terms, their license may be revoked.

    It seems that your main point is that you are unhappy with state licensed dispensaries in general. I would ask that you go back and read the AMMA. The AMMA directed the state to establish a state licensed, regulated and controlled dispensary system. No where in the AMMA does it authorize “compassion clubs,” “collectives,” or “Co-Ops.” The intent of the AMMA was very direct.

    I believe you are a marijuana advocate. That is fine with me. But, if you are going to be an advocate, you should also advocate for the strict following of the law. It is only because of this law that sick people in need of cannabis are able to legally obtain it. Without this law, ANY sick person caught using cannabis would be charged with a crime.

    This law has been a godsend for thousands of patients. I don’t think I’m asking too much to simply follow the law as written and intended.

    If you want to be a provider of cannabis to sick people, then please take the proper steps to become licensed with the state and follow the law as intended. There isn’t any place for “compassion clubs,” “collectives,” or “co-ops.” What is so hard to understand about that?

    As to your claim of greed by dispensaries – this is laughable. The AMMA is a maze of hurdles and tasks that must be accomplished in a specific timeframe and under intense specific rules and scrutiny. Any person who is capable of this accomplishment is obviously a hard working, detail oriented, smart person. The exact type of person who would likely be successful in any endeavor they tackled. If the goal is money – there are a lot more ways to make more money with less headache than opening a state licensed dispensary. Only a person with the dedication and belief that cannabis helps these patients is willing to go through the steps to properly and legally operate this business. I would dare argue that it is the people are aren’t willing to do this properly and legally that are in it for the “greed.”

    For any other readers of this post – “compassion clubs,” “collectives,” and “co-ops” are not authorized under state law nor are they regulated or licensed by the Department of Health Services. Their employees are not required to undergo criminal background checks. They are not required to pay licensing fees to the state. They are not required to enact patient education programs. They are not required to have a Medical Director. They are not required to have strict inventory control and anti-diversion policies and procedures. They are not required to label their products. They are not required to have proper municipal zoning. They are not required to verify the state issued patient identification card. They are not required to collect sales tax. They are not required to have a business license. In short, they are not required to do any of the things that a state licensed dispensary is required to do.

    Henry Bowman

    P.S. I don’t work for nor am I in any way affiliated with AZ Organix. I’m just a dude who thinks the only way to ensure sick people have access to cannabis is to follow the law.

  8. Mary Jane I know Ryan Hurley and he counsels wisely and has no financial interests vested into any dispensary. He simply represents his clients. There is not some conspiracy going on…except what you are imaging.

  9. The real problem with the 2010 law, is that it puts medical marijuana only in the hands of those who can afford to buy it from dispensaries. As a chronic pain patient and a native of AZ, I find this to have a discriminatory effect on those of us existing on Social Security and other fixed incomes. Those that this law was suppose to help. Although ridding AZ of the law is not the answer, neither is leaving as it is. In order to have a more free and fair distribution, the 25 mile rule must be removed. Although it’s great that many are being helped, many are doing so by the state authorization to cultivate their own medicine. For those of you this bothers, let me point out, that this has been in effect since April of 2011, and yet not one problem with medical marijuana grown by patients themselves. So then why take away the rights to grow??? Greed seems to be the most likely answer. And in my opinion any article that fails to address this very current and devasting problem, misses the one of the more prevailing issues surrounding our current law.

  10. Dear Henry,

    All those requirements you wrote are kinda misleading. To be a CAREGIVER for a Co-Op you must get a registry card and go a full fingerprint background check. Also Collectives like Elements on cave Creek in Phx do collect tax and pay it forward now going on 2 years. I have first hand knowledge that the medicine they first did start out with did come from out of state. The ADHS has no control over that until they receive the first annual financial reports then they can dove into that issue. Every time I purchase marijuana from a local licensed dispensary here in Tucson they never give me a receipt! Do you think they are paying tax on that transaction?

  11. My comments are directed to Corey Miller,

    My intent was not to mislead but to rather lay out the facts as I know them. I think we are on the same team here. I’ll address your comments one by one.

    “To be a CAREGIVER for a Co-Op you must get a registry card and go a full fingerprint background check.”

    You are correct that all Caregivers must submit fingerprints and go through a background check to be appointed as a Caregiver by DHS. However, there is nothing that requires employees of a Compassion Club/Collective/Co-Op to actually be Caregivers. They are two totally separate and different issues.

    “Also Collectives like Elements on cave Creek in Phx do collect tax and pay it forward now going on 2 years.”

    This is good news. I personally think that all businesses should do what is required under the law. I’m glad to hear they are at least abiding by that part of it.

    “I have first hand knowledge that the medicine they (Elements) first did start out with did come from out of state.”

    This is a blatant violation of state law under any circumstances. If this were a legal and licensed dispensary, their license would have been revoked for this violation. Furthermore, they have conducted interstate commerce which clearly falls under the purview of the federal authorities. It is exactly these types of actions that the AMMA was designed to prevent. If Elements is so carelessly flaunting this portion of the law, what else are they flaunting? I guess we won’t know because they aren’t a legal state licensed dispensary regulated by DHS.

    “The ADHS has no control over that until they receive the first annual financial reports then they can dove into that issue.”

    DHS has control only over those legal licensed dispensaries that are allowed by state law. Elements is not a legal state licensed legal dispensary. Therefore, they do not submit any financial reports to DHS. For all practical purposes, Elements is an illegal store front drug dealer that is operating under the guise of state law. A state law that they happen to be flaunting by bringing in illegal marijuana from out of state. Elements is a sham.

    “Every time I purchase marijuana from a local licensed dispensary here in Tucson they never give me a receipt! Do you think they are paying tax on that transaction?”

    All state licensed dispensaries are required to give their patients a receipt for their purchase – no different than any other retail transaction. If they fail to do so, they may be sanctioned by DHS and/or have their license revoked. It is entirely possible and probable (assuming they are a state licensed dispensary) that they are in fact paying the appropriate sales taxes. They just need to do a better job of providing patients with receipts. I would do two things. First, next time you are in the dispensary look at the wall in the lobby. All state licensed dispensaries are required to prominently display their Certificate to Operate issued by DHS. If they don’t have one, they aren’t state licensed. If they aren’t state licensed, go to one that is. Assuming they are state licensed, demand a receipt for every purchase.

    I hope this answers your questions and provides some honest feedback to your comments.

    Henry Bowman

  12. My comments are directed to DL Brown:

    Arizona’s law was carefully crafted by the Marijuana Policy Project (“MPP”). The MPP seriously considered exactly the issues that you mention. The MPP didn’t exactly put forth the law that they wanted for the exact reasons that you mention. It was a compromise.

    The compromise was made on “voter palatability.” Basically they put forth an initiative that they believed would have the greatest likelihood of passing. They felt that a law that had a limited number of state regulated, controlled non profit dispensaries would have the greatest chance of providing cannabis to those that need it. They felt that if the law allowed anyone to grow cannabis in their backyard/basement/garage/spare bedroom then voters wouldn’t be ok with that and would reject the law in its entirety. Based on the election outcome, I tend to think the MPP was correct in their assessment.

    The MPP also consulted with law enforcement before drafting the law. Law enforcement’s greatest concern was home cultivation. If the 25 mile halo rule had not been put into the law, the law enforcement community would have taken a much harder stance against the law during the campaign. This would have likely led to its defeat.

    Please know that the intent of the law was not geared to make dispensary owners rich. This is also why they included the non-profit provisions. The intent was to pass the best law they could that would allow cannabis to those that need it. It was all about creating the best law they could given the practical political realities of the time.

    The law may not be perfect, but it is at least something. Under this law, patients will no longer be arrested for using the medicine that is best for them. I’m thankful for that.

    Personally, I’m with you. I think anyone should be able to cultivate their own medicine at home. But I am still very thankful for the law that protects patients and at least provides them a place to buy their medicine, even if it is at a higher price than ideal.

    There is only one way to change the law – the ballot box. If you want to change the law you’ll have to draft an initiative. Then you’ll have to collect the signatures to put it on the ballot. Then the voters will have to approve the changes. I don’t see any other way that it can be done.

    Henry Bowman

  13. Arizona Medical Marijuana with its collectives and co-op’s have been doing what should have been done. They setup shop when our great and disenchanted govenor tried to keep the dispensary’s out and change the vote of the people but she wasn’t the only one trying to keep the good people of Arizona from getting there Medicine. Our once director of Education Mr. Horne a State Attorney now and and his counterpart from Tucson. Then came the judges rule but it was a year later. Now you had the right to grow but what if you just couldn’t grow because of a landlord or other circumstances. Well the collectives and co-op’s stepped in and that gave patients a way to get their medicine. So now what happens to these collectives and co-op’s do we keep them or do we let them go away on there own. I say lets wait and see. We are a free enterprise country aren’t we. I read some of the other comments on this issue and I realize that yes the law specifically calls for state regulated dispensary’s. I am not disputing that I am just saying that the MMJ club I donated to for my medicine was actually just as good or sometimes better than the dispensary’s.

  14. @DL Brown – If you’re in Southern Arizona, you should look into SWAPA’s compassionate care program. The Compassionate Care program is a program that dispensaries can choose to participate in for patients who cannot afford medical cannabis. You must be on medicare or medicaid, and there ARE income limits that must be verified to ensure that the program is not abused. Three dispensaries in the Tucson area are currently participating – Purple Meds, Desert Re-Leaf, and Earth’s Healing in Benson. When the dispensary in Florence finally opens, they’ll be voluntarily participating, too. It essentially lowers the price you pay for medical cannabis.

    Prices on dispensary meds are unlikely, in my opinion, to drop until dispensaries each have their own grow sites. As with every other part of the AMMA, there are a lot of regulations that must be followed by each dispensary for grow sites. It will continue to take time to get going. Remember, Arizona was caught with its pants down with AZ Prop 203 passed in 2010; lawmakers hadn’t expected it to pass, so they didn’t have a THING setup for the implementation of Prop 203. It took a few months for them to get things rolling.

  15. @Jarhead- As far as collectives and co-op’s are concerned- caregivers were designed to ‘hold over’ patients until dispensaries opened. If you reside outside of the ’25-mile’ rule, you can still have a caregiver growing for you. I am sure that Mr. Bowman can recall the AMMA more fluently than I can, but I believe the regulation that outlaws the co-op’s and collectives has to do with the SALE of marijuana, medicinal or not, and the fact that the co-op’s/collectives/clubs are not/were not connected to the AZDHS system, as all regulated dispensaries are required to do with every transaction. Calling something a ‘donation’ if you’re getting something tangible in return doesn’t negate a sale from being a sale. I could argue that I’m making a ‘charitable donation’ to Fry’s Food in support of their donations to the food bank, but it doesn’t change the fact that Fry’s is still selling me groceries. The sale of marijuana, for ANY purpose, even between patients, is still illegal if it does not occur between a dispensary and a patient registered in the AZDHS system.

    This fairly sizable legal issue aside, some of the collectives and co-op’s had some SERIOUS problems with violations on the quantity of marijuana they had on hand at any given time. There’s one in Tucson that was raided by police on multiple occasions- and justly so! Nobody needs POUNDS of marijuana on hand; this suggests far more activity than even a collective of caregivers should have. That particular co-op had more problems than just quantity, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s enough.

    HOWEVER, now that dispensaries are open as the law intended, the issue of collectives and caregivers (with a few exceptions under the 25-mile rule), and co-op’s is over. Those are not a legal option any longer. Why dwell so long on this subject? If you are unhappy with the quality of meds at one dispensary, go to another! Make your voice heard – don’t just walk out like a whiny punk. Most of my negative experiences with dispensaries have had to do with wait times (since there is a set number of patients allowed into the dispensing area at one time), not quality. I don’t know where you’ve been going, but if quality is your concern, try somewhere else.

  16. @Henry Bowman-

    Just wanted to say that I’ve seen your comments on other articles and comments on Facebook, and I really appreciate an educated individual commenting on the subject. I do agree that all patients should be able to cultivate their own medicines, and I do agree that states’ rights are important. I think it will only be a matter of time before federal law changes. I think it’s also important to note that you are advocating for strict adherence to the current law; I agree with you completely here as well!

    Civil disobedience has its place. We wouldn’t be talking about this issue at all if brave citizens hadn’t tried cannabis for medical use in the first place. I do think that’s an important item to note. However, I do agree with 90% of the AMMA. The 25-mile rule needs some work (I will soon be living 13 miles away from the closest dispensary which will be a PAIN), but most of it is very sound. If only more people who are NOT patients would take the time to understand the law and its implications….

    I’m a moderate democrat (mostly because of human rights issues), but I also believe in smaller central government and strong individual states. I am sure there are many issues that you and I don’t agree on (like ObamaCare), but I am always happy to see people in conversations – not screaming matches. Thank you for your intelligent comments on the AMMA issues.

  17. The prohibition of marijuana has only ensured that criminals will prosper. Doesn’t it make more sense to allow a state licensed, taxed and regulated system for those with deemed medical necessity?

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