We hope that all of you are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. So much has changed in the last couple of weeks since we were at the Rillito Farmers Market doing outreach and collecting signatures as well as doing our sixth highway cleaning of Campbell Avenue. We have had all of our meetings postponed and all public events have been canceled. Southern Arizona NORML takes this crisis very seriously. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution to protect our board members and volunteers, we will not be participating in any public event, collect signatures or have any in person meetings until this crisis has abated and it is deemed safe to resume NORML/normal activities. In accordance with this mandate, we will be holding our next chapter meeting on Thursday, April 2nd at 6:30 PM in a virtual manner via Webex. We will post a link to join and participate in that meeting in the next couple of days.
We are working closely with our state chapter in monitoring the situation. As such, I’d like to share the following updates regarding legislation, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, national NORML’s response and dispensary inventory from our state chapter’s director Mikel Weisser:
1. The Smart and Safe Arizona campaign is still operating, though currently we are working from home in our various homes. For the time being public events, travel and signature collection are suspended.
2. The state is not likely to accommodate initiative campaigns affected by the covid19 national shutdown, either by extending the signature deadline or allowing signatures to be gathered online, but, rest assured, requests for such allowances have been made.
3. Smart and Safe has already collected more than the minimum number of signatures required and is in the process of validating the signatures on hand.
4. The existing final deadline for signature turn-in is the first week of July. Unless the national situation turns dramatically worse, expect another wave of signature gathering ahead of that deadline.
5. With the covid19 crisis affecting all initiative campaigns, the Smart and Safe Arizona initiative is now considered by some to be the only campaign still on pace to collect enough signatures to qualify for the AZ ballot.
Cannabis Bills Pending at the State Legislature
1. Arizona NORML had been following several bills at the capitol, but, starting last week, the galleries, then the offices at the legislature, were closed to the public, and those bills fell to secondary importance as the legislature worked out a state-level covid19 relief package. Since then the AZ state legislature has adjourned until the 13th of April.
2. The most worrisome bill pending is still HCR2045, a ballot measure sponsored by Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers (R-LD25). This bill currently charges a 5% tax on medical marijuana products and promises to spend that money exhaustively researching the “potential harms” of cannabis. At one point the bill also included a 2% cap on THC potency of cannabis in the medical program. Though that language has been stripped, the idea of a tax on medicine is insulting and the threat of having a second ballot measure on the November ballot to confuse voters about the legalization initiative is infuriating. This bill cleared the House on a party line vote and is pending in the Senate.
3. Our flagship bill on autism, HB2049, made it to the full House Committee of the Whole and was amended on March 12th, but it hasn’t received the final vote in the House yet.
4. HB2879, a bill to delay implementing the cannabis testing program that was passed last year, also cleared the House and is dormant in the Senate.
5. HB2784, a bill to launch a research program on cannabis effectiveness for a variety of issues passed to the Senate and got assigned to HHS and Rules before stalling for the shutdown.
6. SB1674, a bill to allow cannabis companies with more than one license to split the licenses between owners, has passed the Senate and been assigned in the House, though made no progress recently.
7. Efforts to get the legislature to consider emergency provisions to accommodate patients with out-of-state reciprocity or temporary grow rights have been made but are considered highly unlikely given the Speaker’s opposition to cannabis.
As many of you are probably aware, dispensaries have made considerable adjustments during the covid19 crisis: shortened hours, limited lobby availability, online ordering, pick up- or delivery-only and so on. Some, to no small surprise, have discontinued their bogos and sales for the time being.
Despite reduced hours and staff, the industry itself is hanging in there and cannabis has been seen as an essential industry in many states. National NORML has been leading the fight to protect cannabis supplies as essential and encourage solidarity through this crisis. Here in AZ, according to ADA director, Sam Richard, “the supply chain is strong,” and there is no threat of running out of product.”
We thank Mikel for his update. He will also be speaking about these updates during our virtual meeting on April 2nd.
We will be looking at establishing a larger on-line presence with updates and news during this time of isolation and social distancing. Therefore, we will be communicating more through our social media platforms as well as our website on a quotidian basis.
While we will not be exerting a physical presence in the public at this time, Southern Arizona NORML remains committed to the fight of reforming marijuana laws and working with each of you to see adult-use legalization to fruition in Arizona.
Please call or email if you have any questions or have experienced any legal or medical problems with cannabis during this crisis.
Southern Arizona NORML