Friday, February 20, 2015

Legalization Update 2/20/15: Ten Things to Know about MPP’s Newest “Final” Draft

1.       It’s NOT final. In the rush to have the fastest kneejerk in the west various marijuana activists have been trying to exploit insider connections to provide the activist community w the supposed latest “final” version of MPP’ ballot measure draft before it gets filed. This “final draft” was leaked late Sunday afternoon, online before evening was out and officially refuted as “final” before coffee-break Monday morning. It does reflect substantial revisions from the draft of 1/26/15, most of which are good news for Safer AZ’s mission. Industry leaders however still have much to settle in establishing the regulatory structure.
2.       It’s Still Homegrown. Despite concerns over polling, MPP has consistently stuck to their commitment to personal grow rights. The numbers look like this: 6 plants per person, 12 per household. You get to keep all the marijuana produced on the premises as well, so this means in all practicality, marijuana possession levels will be only related to public possession, since all the marijuana on one’s property could have been produced in earlier grows. With the possibility of limited cultivation licenses in the fee schedule, anyone whose thumb isn’t green enough w 12 plants should be able to buy their way into the industry. But don’t kid yourself, compliance regulations for marijuana establishments are designed to weed out the illegal and inept. Bartering between friends will be legal however, so the desires of most backyard gardeners will be protect. Beyond that, hey, get a license.
3.        It’s No Gamble. After being roundly rejected by most quarters of AZ’s marijuana community (activists and industry-types alike) the proposal that adult use marijuana licensing should be run through the Dept. of Gaming is scrapped. Licensing will continue in DHS (Dept. of Health & Human Services) till July 1 of 2018, when all marijuana licensing, medicinal and adult use, will be regulated by the newly created, Dept. of Marijuana.
4.       It’s Bullet-Proof. One of the biggest challenges to creating citizens’ initiatives in AZ is creating a set of rules that have to fiddle-proof to prevent legislators of various intentions from being able to make substantial changes to the program, yet supple enough to adjust to actual unforeseen complexities of governing such an industry. Looking to the as-of-yet unassailable Clean Elections Commission structure with a non-partisan political appointment process and internal reviews procedures. The structure should be ironclad when comes to outside forces and empowered to create the complex regulatory structure that will protect consumers and not hamstring the industry as it builds itself.
5.       Is Hemp Legal? Though this ballot measure is designed to govern marijuana, an interesting development between the 1/26/15 and the 2/15/15 draft is the addition of the words “should be legal” into the paragraph in the finds section on Hemp. The earlier version of the sentence said “hemp should be regulated separately from” the more THC-laden strains of cannabis (i.e. marijuana). That passage now reads “the people of the State of Arizona further find and declare that hemp should be legal and should be regulated separately from” the THC strains of cannabis (36-2820.4) Later in the document (2822.6) it permits the state legislature to regulate and tax hemp. In the personal use and cultivation section a person’s right to “possess, produce, process, manufacturer, purchase, obtain, sell or otherwise transfer, or transport industrial hemp” is explicitly affirmed (2831.3). A lot obviously hangs on the difference between the meanings of the words “shall” & “should,” as “hemp shall be legal” v “hemp should be legal,” so for now we are asking for clarification.
6.       What is a Plant? Home cultivators around the state appreciate the distinctions between a seedling, a clone, a vegetative state plant or one in full flower. Only the later has appreciable THC levels. Currently the definitions section defines “Industrial Hemp” (2821.4) & marijuana sort of (2821.7) by identifying what it is not, for example hemp. But if hemp is defined as a low-level THC cannabis plant, what about THC-heavy strains prior to their flowering state when they are still low-level THC bearing?
7.         Forgot About Dre? One of the original concerns of Safer AZ, and the activist community as a whole, has been addressing: the damage already done to the tens of thousands of Arizonans who have been collateral damage in the War on Drugs, is still MIA. Post conviction relief, record expungement and current prisoner resentencing options are not in the language and, so far, unlikely to be added. Legislative fixes similar to Mark Cardenas’ 2014 bill HB2474 might be the only way to get justice for those whose lives are forever scarred by prohibition. Some of us can’t forget the past or that this language forgets to fix it.
8.       THC & CPS? One of the most egregious acts of AZ’s scandal ridden Child Protective Services agency has been their targeting of parents w mmj cards. Already a national epidemic, CPS agencies around the country contend that parents w marijuana charges or even mmj cards are drug dependent and neglecting their kids, no matter the reality of the circumstances. While anecdotal evidence is strong, CPS denies such evidence, but the new law should end any questions of cannabis and kids: “No person may be denied custody of or visitation or parenting time with a minor, and there is no presumption of neglect or child endangerment for conduct allowed under this chapter, unless the person’s behavior creates an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor as established by clear and convincing evidence.” (2831.4)
9.       The No-Zone Layer. Beyond the state laws regarding the various aspects of marijuana regulation, the ballot measure clearly establishes the ability of local jurisdictions to have “local control” in regulating marijuana in their cities. While earlier drafts included provisions allowing cities to control  the transportation of marijuana in their zoning jurisdictions have been struck, cities can still regulate “the smoking, production, processing, and manufacturing of marijuana when it is injurious to the environment or otherwise is a nuisance to a considerable number of persons” (2827.2a).

10.   Schooled on “School” a final clarification from earlier drafts is that the word “school” is clarified to mean K-12 and younger educational facilities. Colleges, technical institutes and adult learning facilities would still be able to regulate cannabis on their properties, but not w the weight of felony arrest behind them.

--Mikel Weisser is the political director of Safer Arizona

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