After last week's excitement over SB1420, the Arizona bill that would mandate lab testing for the state's marijuana products and reduce registration fees for patients, the bill reached an impasse as Republicans refused to allow lower fees.
Initial reports indicated the bill could have been heard on the Arizona Senate floor on Feb. 7, but as of Feb. 9, the bill had yet to pass the crucial stage of a Senate Rules Committee hearing.
As a simple regulation bill, the proposed legislation drew massive support from the legislators, a necessary component to changing a ballot initiative in Arizona, which requires a three-fourths vote to change voter-approved laws.
However, as word got around that the bill also decreased the cost of applying for a medical marijuana card from $150 per year to an initial $50 and $25 for renewals, Republicans began withdrawing their support. In the interest of passing the regulations, reduced feels have been removed from the bill.
The bill's backers first saw the sway in support during its first committee hearing Jan. 31, when three of the bill's previous supports, Sens. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa), John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) and Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), voted against the bill in a surprise upset, citing the fee reductions.
Several additional concerns were raised, including the implied power of state inspectors to drop in on private residences of caregivers to review their growing methods and decreasing the medical marijuana program's revenue below operating costs.
Arizona currently has 944 registered caregivers, and because caregivers grow and provide marijuana to patients in Arizona, the bill would subject them to the same standards as dispensaries and grow facilities.
Legislators estimated the testing provisions would add $2 million to the program's $11 million yearly operating estimates, which, alone, would be covered not only by the Department of Health Service's $41 million surplus, but also in yearly profit as it currently stands.
However, coupled with decreased registration fees, the predicted revenue would fall below $7.6 million, resulting in a $5.5 million deficit for the program, which would slowly eat away at the DHS surplus.
The lobbyist arguing for the bill on behalf of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, Kevin DeMenna, argued that the fee reduction could bring in an additional 350,000 patients, quadrupling the current number of registered patients in Arizona. Those additional patients would provide $8.7 million on top of the revenue the DHS would collect from current patients. But given the prohibitionist sentiment shared by many of the state's Republicans, they probably didn't take too kindly to hearing about such an explosion in use.
The true insanity of the Republicans' opposition arises from unfounded fears of use among minors.
One of the state's largest marijuana opponents, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, told the Phoenix New Times that she has parents coming to her "all the time" looking for a way to keep their innocent young children from "losing ambition and losing a bright, beautiful future."
Are you kidding me, Sheila?
No, she's not. This is the work of an amalgamation of decades of anti-marijuana propaganda aimed at painting the plant in a vicious, treacherous light. If parents are so concerned about their children losing ambition to a plant, then they have other issues on their hands.
Nothing about marijuana predicates a destiny solely comprised of bed-ridden Netflix binges in a sea of snack wrappers (though they certainly are a welcome repose), lest we forget the oft-cited fact that if kids really want to ruin their lives, they should become alcoholics instead.
Even as marijuana heads for record public support, the woefully uneducated opposition continues to bolster their Reefer Madness-esque rhetoric of how even one hit can not only warrant the wrath of the United States government but strip you of your dreams of societal wherewithal.
In the age of an unbridled proliferation of information (not all of it salient), such misconceptions create a formidable opponent for legalization. Only the continued destigmatization of use and the evidence, experience and education around the benefits of marijuana can break down the wall of lies holding our country back from real beneficial drug-policy reform.