Sunday, February 8, 2015

Safer AZ February Update

What Has Safer Arizona Accomplished Lately?
Safer AZ has consistently worked as a cooler head in the ongoing negotiations between the various factions involved in AZ’s marijuana movement. From dispensary lawyers to disabled vets, Safer AZ has listened to all sides and tried to bridge gaps when possible. Our commitment to communications is helping break the paranoia cycle that so often cripples negotiations.

According to the national news service, Alternet, Safer AZ is serving as the effective voice of AZ’s cannabis consumer community and has flexed enough muscle to make even the mighty MPP pay attention to our demands.
Since launching our new season on January 8:

Safer Arizona went to Kingman and challenged Matforce in Mohave; and on the same day had our season kick-off event in Tempe

Safer organized a major demonstration at AZ state capitol which got nationwide attention and scooped statehouse opening day coverage in 10 separate articles.

Safer AZ created 4 large scale pro-marijuana prop signs, including a legalization sign signed by 100s in the first month alone. In addition we have amassed the materials for 100s more signs. All we need is the labor.

Our “Safer Bowl Sunday” literally touched tens of thousands of football fans when we set up at the Glendale Ave entrance to Cardinal Stadium. Hundreds posed w our signage including Glendale PD and countless Seattle Seahawks fans thrilled to see our pro-marijuana display.

Safer AZ developed a calendar of legislative activities w 4 full-scale meetings w state legislators and introductory meetings with another 15 more. All in all Safer Arizona has now met w 27 legislators so far this session and is actively scheduling meetings for any citizen wanting to meet w their own representatives or senator.

Operating as registered lobbyists, Safer Arizona represented the interests of small mmj entrepreneurs at the state capitol, w representatives of various Indian nations, at Tempe City Council, at the statewide convention of the Democratic Party, and in the press in multiple articles.
Safer AZ and our lawyer, Tom Dean, meet multiple times w MPP to negotiate language of new ballot measure. Dean gets a seat in the drafting committee to represent our interests.

Safer made presentations to 9 different groups on MPP’s new ballot measure, including presentations to groups of 20+ in Prescott Valley, Glendale, PHX, & Tempe and filmed a summary for You Tube.
Safer AZ does weekly tabling at the Saturday 710 Lounge farmers’ market and the Sunday farmers’ market at Lax Life also. Twice a week Safer is in the heart of the PHX cannabis community, sharing information and making presentations.

Safer AZ took actions to protect the homeless population in Tucson and intervened in a human trafficking incident.

Safer AZ coordinates w Hemp Our World and their new executive director, Michael Jacobs, to get their new hemp ballot measure campaign up and operational.

Safer AZ begins negotiations to promote and distribute two cannabis documentaries: Culture High (214), What If Cannabis Cured Cancer (2010). Currently plans are in the works for a showing of Culture High in PHX at Film Bar, in Tucson, & Tempe.  We have been provided w copies of What If … by the director’s estate for our fundraising and educational projects. Briefly we were involved in pre-production on a documentary on the AZ movement, but that fell through.

Separately Safer AZ produced a series of instructional You Tube videos on various topics over the past month, including breakdowns on bills at the statehouse and MPP’s current draft of their legalization initiative.

Safer AZbegan developing a national network of cannabis political activist groups, including leaders in Kentucky, Georgia, Idaho & Oklahoma, to create a national grassroots coalition to provide nationwide help for state level legalization activities.

Safer AZ sold another 100 tee-shirts and is placing an order for 150 more.

Safer AZ created satellite activist groups in Buckeye, Yuma and Prescott Valley, while greatly expanding our footprint in the PHX metro area.

Safer AZ amassed a core volunteer base of 25 dedicated workers committed to spending 4 hours or more per month on our projects.

Safer AZ staff have taken certified training courses in Marijuana production.

Safer AZ has undergone a major website rebuild.

Safer AZ has begun providing a “Shark Tank” experience for budding cannabis entrepreneurs, now helping 4 separate innovators prepare their cannabis-themed products for market.


Safer Arizona Reviews MPP’s Current Draft of Their Legalization Initiative

A You Tube video summary of this draft is available here:

Having attempted to run our own ballot measure during the 2014 election cycle and being intimately aware of the problematic 2010 MPP AMMA Prop 203 campaign, we at Safer Arizona took a very keen interest in MPP’s progress. Our community instructed us to hold to 3 criteria: home-grow rights, basic civil rights protections & small business opportunity.  Safer Arizona is lucky to have our lawyer, the nationally renowned Tom Dean, represent us on the drafting committee. Dean was able to prepare extensive notes for the committee on aligning their proposed language with existing state statute. The draft we are reviewing here is the 3rd or 4th draft depending on how one judges such things in a constantly evolving document. The document is currently referred to as Title 36, Chapter 28.2.

Disclaimer: The summary below is in no way all inclusive and represents the opinion of Safer AZ staff.

Findings (2820) The initiative will amend existing state laws regarding marijuana found in sections ARS13-3401 & 3405. The Findings section (essentially a section explaining the philosophy and intentions of the law) asserts that marijuana should be regulated like alcohol and “individuals will possess the right to produce a limited amount of marijuana for use personal use.” This support of personal grow rights is woven throughout the text of this draft. It goes on to explain the legislation’s strategy includes regulated “marijuana establishments” that can cultivate, process, distribute, test and sell marijuana.

Definitions (2821) The Definitions section has some extremely important points to note: 1) The new adult use regulatory program will be under the Department of Gaming (2821.3). This is a significant shift from the existing medical dispensary licensing program with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS)—more on that below in the “What’s Bad” section following the summary.
2) Marijuana is defined by what it is not, rather than what it is 2821.7). The most important of these distinctions is that Marijuana is not industrial hemp. Industrial Hemp (2821.4) is defined as plants from “the genus cannabis and any part of such plant” with a THC level of less than .03%. This is significant because most all cannabis plants from the mildest indica to the most potent sativa have a THC level of less than .03% until they reach the flowering stage. This means that only mature THC bearing plants will matter on plant count. Marijuana is also NOT the weight of other ingredients in various edibles and preparations or “marijuana accessories.” Marijuana accessories include “any equipment, products, or materials of any kind” for marijuana cultivation, processing or consumption. This means an end to arrests for paraphernalia. Lastly the definitions also explain the term, “Unreasonably impracticable,” meaning that marijuana establishments will not be subjected to regulations that are so extreme as to make impossible for a reasonable businessman to conduct reasonable business.

Limitations (2822)
Of course there will still be limitations as to what a person can do with marijuana: No operating a motor vehicle or consuming inside the passenger compartment of one, unless it is in the living quarters of an RV or something similar. No distributing marijuana to anyone under 21, no marijuana in correctional facilities or schools (though we are calling for excluding adult learning facilities, such as colleges and cosmetology schools). No use of marijuana when it constitutes “negligence or professional malpractice.” Employers and landlords will still be allowed to discriminate against marijuana users in employment and housing. Of note: this section includes the disclaimer that this law will not affect the provisions or protections of the AMMA. The most important passage here is the reminder that a person will need a license to do marijuana business. This is a reminder that there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to enter the industry.

Rulemaking (2823)
Marijuana establishments will still be required to have security and surveillance equipment on site and be able to track their inventory. There will be a requirement for marijuana testing and labeling: solvents, pollutants, THC, CBD and dosage per package. The state will create a “statewide license class system” for licensing both unlimited and limited permits for cultivation, processing, distributing, selling or testing marijuana. This section explicitly states that the lower level license shall not exceed 1/3 of the cost of the unlimited licenses. Consumers will not be required to present personal information other than proof of age to purchase marijuana and no records are to be kept or reported of a person’s purchases.

Local Control (2824)
Local governments (county and city governments) will still have power to regulate marijuana in their jurisdictions, but cannot create rules that are “unreasonably impracticable.” Currently this section also includes the line that localities may enact rules restricting “consumption, production, processing, manufacturing, and transportation of marijuana.” We are calling for a change in this language to remove the word “transportation” and add the word “public” to consumption. If different jurisdictions could restrict transportation of marijuana then how could the average consumer keep track of the maze of conflicting jurisdictions on the highways?

Licensing (2826)
Marijuana establishments are still prohibited within 300 of churches and schools. Licenses will be awarded on merit, not random selection; one establishment cannot hold multiple licenses in an area if it prohibits competition. Ex-felons can apply for licenses after five years.

Licensing Fee Schedule (2826.1)
The fee for being an unlimited cultivator is $30,000 (limited license is $10,000), renewal is $10,000. There are also new and renewal license fees for processing, retail sales, distribution, and testing. Of note, it goes on to say that if the state does not create sufficient regulations and implementation in a timely manner, then applicants can apply directly to their localities for licensing.

Operating Requirements (2827)
The biggest change here is a lowering of the requirements for outdoor cultivation security. Fencing will now need to be 8 feet tall and marijuana operations must not be visible without “binoculars, aircraft or other optical aids.” As expected, all marijuana establishments will be subject to inspection.

Personal Use and Cultivation (2828)
No more civil forfeitures, consumers may purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at a time or 5 grams of concentrate (we are calling for higher limits) and transfer marijuana between friends. A person can grow 6 plants and a household a total of 12. Keeping in mind what is defined as a marijuana plant, this should cover most patient needs. A key protection in this section is the line that “a person shall not be penalized solely because of the presence of metabolites” in their system. Another protection is the reminder that a person shall not be punished in any way for hemp.

Marijuana Accessories (2829)
The possession manufacture, sale and promotion of marijuana accessories shall not be prohibited.

Lawful Operations (2830)
This is a reminder that cultivating, processing, selling, distributing and/or testing marijuana shall be legal if a person or business has the proper licensing and employees shall not be subject to criminal charges.

Identifying Underage Persons (2831)
The Marijuana legalization movement must protect itself against the continuing allegations that our efforts imperil youth. This section is a reassurance that the new law will work to prevent underage people from getting access to marijuana. It does specify however that youthful offenders will get community service, not jail time, if they are caught smoking.

Penalties (2833)
As one could imagine, this section is the most controversial passage in the draft. On the plus side, it does set almost all penalties at misdemeanor or less (the exception is for chemical extraction of concentrates without a license). On the negative side it does not spell out the penalties for possession over one ounce or “intent to distribute.” Since these penalties are not specified here, statute would revert to existing marijuana rules (ARS13-3405) and these offenses (and any others not specified in the new language) would be considered felonies. We urgently call for correction in this section.

Marijuana Fund (2834)
This section is still underwritten and does not clearly specify where the moneys generated from marijuana will be spent. Safer AZ is recommending the Department of Health (since we want this to stay in DHS), Dept. of Ed, and law enforcement subsidies, since law enforcement will face a tremendous decrease in their budgets with impending cuts in their marijuana enforcement budgets.
This ballot measure also amends state statute regarding the illicit drug schedule (ARS13-3401) and establishes a 15% tax on marijuana sales

What’s Missing
1.       No protections against local jail time
2.       No provisions for expungement of existing criminal charges, current inmate resentencing option, or post-conviction relief
3.       Language protecting home cultivators from the implied distinction between “concrete possession” and “actual possession.” An example of why this is a problem: If two people have 6 plants each and live in the same house, if the plants are co-mingled could either person be charged w possessing all 12 plants? What if a person had 12 plants at their household and was assisting someone at a separate location with their plants. Is that person now in possession of both sets of plants? This issue can be settled with some simple clarifying language.
4.       Parenting and discrimination protections similar to, though stronger than, those in the AMMA. Currently CPS can assert an automatic “neglect finding” if a parent is found with marijuana or even declares they have a medical card. We are calling for explicit protections included that state “custody shall not be disturbed” for the legal possession and usage of marijuana by parents.

What’s Good
By and large this draft satisfies many of the concerns Safer AZ  had about grow rights and small business access. DUI provisions are good; citizen grow rights include possessing ALL the marijuana produced on personal premises; protections for marijuana accessory use and promotion is a real breakthrough; as is the protection from false weights on marijuana preparations and edibles.

What’s Bad
The shift of licensing for adult use marijuana from DHS to Department of Gaming, means a delay in new license implementation until June of 2019 and that existing marijuana establishments will have to apply for entirely separate licensing to expand into the adult market. This will prohibit new investment into both the ballot measure’s campaign and the industry. Unspecified penalties for larger possession and “intent to distribute” offenses means those charges revert to existing state statutes and remain severe felonies.

A)     keeping licensing for all marijuana establishments in the existing DHS structure
B)      excluding adult learning facilities from prohibited locations
C)      explicitly including the limited license fee schedule in the fee section
D)     raising allowable limits of possession outside of one’s residence to 2 & ½ ounces
E)      requiring housing discrimination against cannabis be explicitly written into housing leases
F)      listing penalties for larger possession (greater than one ounce) and “intent to distribute,” and having those penalties be misdemeanors. Doing business without a license should result in civil penalties, not criminal ones
G)     Protections from potential unreasonable local restrictions on private consumption and transportation of marijuana
H)     Remove the delay date of June 2019, allow for immediate implementation by existing dispensaries while they create their adult use establishments and let new investors have access to the market
I)        Completing the spending formula for the accrued tax revenue to include: education, public health and law enforcement

We recommend the AZ cannabis community accept this draft as a reasonable opening offer on the part of MPP to show it values our concerns. MPP and members of the dispensary industry are already contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the legalization movement. Safer AZ urges the activist community to also consolidate our funds, along with our recommendations to leverage MPP to incorporate our values and concerns into their final language. To this end, Safer AZ reminds readers that we are a 527 political action committee able to take unlimited donations for or against a ballot measure and not required to disclose our donors. Investors could invest in Safer AZ to create a pool of money to support MPP’s work, without having to directly contribute to MPP; but we are encouraging open good-faith negotiations for the time being; and will keep you posted as developments change.

Mikel Weisser, Political Director, Safer Arizona

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