Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently sent a letter to Congress demanding that they stop protecting marijuana patients as they are currently required to do under the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment.
This week, it was publicized that Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to Congress demanding that they end protections for medical marijuana patients put forth in the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, currently stops the Department of Justice (DOJ) from funding any sort of prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers. The issue is that this amendment must now be renewed to remain in effect and get added to the current budget. Sessions is asking that members of Congress stop this from happening.
This is a direct attack by Attorney General Sessions on the Cannabis industry. On the other side of the issue, the CARERS Act was reintroduced to Congress recently. CARERS Act is a groundbreaking bill that would end federal prohibition of medical marijuana, allow states to set their own policies, and protect medical marijuana patients and providers from federal prosecution. It would also remove barriers to perform federally approved marijuana research, and allow veterans to discuss medical marijuana treatment options and receive recommendations from VA physicians in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Currently, thirty states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, have fully legalized medical marijuana, and an additional 15 states allow for a limited form, but Sessions’ war on medical marijuana patients and providers is just beginning. We need to take steps to protect patients’ rights before it’s too late.
Contact your representatives now and urge them to support the CARERS Act.
New information from the Department of Health Services (DHS), which is the governmental agency responsible for being the administrator of Arizona's medical marijuana program, about their worries associated with the opioid epidemic in Arizona. Currently there is an average of 2 deaths in Arizona per day because of opioid misuse either in the legal or illegal marketplace. Dr. Cara Christ who is the DHS director recently was quoted as saying that there is a dramatic rise in deaths from 454 in 2012 to 790 in 201 and that some of this is because of illegal drug use. This is seen in a tripling in the number of heroin overdoses in Arizona. Dr. Christ continued by saying that there are more actual deaths from prescription opioids than from illegal opioid use. Probably the biggest reason for this rise in overdose from medically prescribed opioids is that people easily get hooked on them when they are trying to overcome their issues with chronic pain.
Governor Ducey has also noticed the opioid epidemic and he has declared a statewide health emergency due to opioid abuse. As a part of his state of emergency, Ducey is putting "enhanced surveillance" in place to watch this crisis, tightening doctor’s abilities to prescribe opioids, and training law enforcement to administer Naloxone which is used to reverse the effects of overdose from narcotics including opioids.
Now it seems that Dr. Christ and Governor Ducey fully understand that opioid abuse is a huge problem in Arizona. Also, it is apparent that patients with chronic pain are the ones who make up the largest portion of medically prescribed opioid users that have become addicted to these drugs due to overuse. With chronic pain being a qualifying condition for a patient to be prescribed medical marijuana, it would seem easy to most that medical marijuana is a great option to wean people off of their highly addictive opioids.
Dr. Christ has stated that the current opioid crisis in Arizona is both because of doctors over-prescribing these drugs and government itself having to take a portion of the blame because the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services attach hospital reimbursement and performance scores to patient satisfaction surveys that ask how a patient’s pain was treated.Dr. Christ understands that if prescriptions for opioids are reduced, people’s chroic pain will not just go away on its own and if patients cannot access painkillers, they will mostly turn to heroin. We know this because studies have shown that 4 out of 5 current heroin users started as prescription painkiller users. Dr, Christ then said that change starts with the doctors prescribing other methods for pain suppression. One thing that Dr, Christ has not mentioned is that out of the many pain relievers, medical marijuana is possibly the most effective alternative to opioids and their addictive qualities. Instead, Dr. Christ said she cannot say how much marijuana will help some people and that “[e]ach individual is going to be different”. She continued that “[i]f patients are interested, that’s something they should talk with their healthcare provider about.” In contrast to Dr. Christ’s lackluster approach to using medical marijuana as an alternative to dangerous opioids, the facts back the use of marijuana. Multiple studies, including one from Johns Hopkins University, have found that people in states with legalized medical marijuana programs, including Arizona, have a 25 percent lower likelihood of becoming dependant on prescription painkillers to begin with than in states with no legal form of marijuana. Moreso, the evidence suggests that marijuana not only provides a less-addictive alternative to prescription painkillers, it can be used as an "exit drug" so that people who are dependent on opioids can end their dependency.
It is clear in the medical marijuana community that recommending the use of medical marijuana to these patients is the best and healthiest possible way to get these patients off of their highly-addictive opioid medications and this feeling is supported by the evidence. The main issue now seems to be convincing the people in decision-making power that opioids are killing Arizona and that marijuana can revive our state and its people.
Source: Johns Hopkins University study.
Phoenix, AZ – This week Governor Doug Ducey stopped a bipartisan effort to support a new industry and create jobs for Arizonans. Ducey’s veto of SB1337, which would have opened Arizona up to industrial hemp cultivation, is the latest example of his flawed mathematics regarding safe and economically viable marijuana policy. In his veto letter, Governor Ducey cited a lack of funding to implement the policy as his rationale, despite the fact that no evidence supports that statement and the new industry would have been an economic boon for Arizona.
“This once again shows that the opponents of safe uses for anything that’s marijuana related are driven by political ideologies that aren’t based in scientific or economic facts,” stated John Hartsell, Chairman of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Action PAC (AMMA PAC). “There is absolutely no evidence which supports Governor Ducey’s reason for this veto and it contradicts his own words about Arizona being ‘Open for Business’. It’s just more of the same fear-mongering aimed at undermining safe and legal uses for marijuana and hemp related products.”
In response to this latest veto, AMMA-PAC is committing itself to an advocacy and education agenda which is more proactive than the one they have already implemented during the first five months of 2017.
“In the less than 72 hours since the veto, we’ve reached over 10,000 people, had approximately 2,300 engagements via social media, and have seen almost 450 people visit the Governor’s contact page through our email network,” continued Hartsell. “And this is just the beginning. Starting next week, we will be coordinating phone banks, letter writing campaigns, and various educational and advocacy events throughout Arizona for the remainder of 2017.”
Additionally, a new Arizona Republic article shows the Governor falsely claimed the 2016 ballot measure to legalize marijuana, Proposition 205, would have been a “net financial loser for our state” during a speech at the Marijuana Education Summit on April 20, 2017 in Atlanta, GA. As The Arizona Republic’s fact checking team points out in an article posted on May 24th (click here to read the article), the Governor’s claim simply can’t be supported by the facts.
“Enough is enough. We will not stand idly by while our opponents perpetuate false myths about the marijuana industry,” concluded Hartsell.
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Association is a Patients First organization seeking to deliver greater access to certification to legally purchase and possess medicinal cannabis. Our organization works closely with patients, dispensaries, ancillary services, and products to ensure all points of view are adequately represented at Arizona's legislature.
UPDATE: Fact check: Ariz. Gov. Doug Ducey claims legalizing marijuana would cost the state more than it would generate in taxes. Read the entire article here...
This alert is about taking action! You are just a few clicks away from telling Governor Doug Ducey that you are fed up with his tired, old adherence to the new conservative playbook. He says he's a Libertarian at his roots but, time and again his actions regarding Cannabis and its medical or industrial use do not align with Libertarian values.
Here's how to take action:
I urge you to reconsider your position on this issue and work with our representatives from AMMA PAC to bring this important, new economic driver to Arizona.
4. Paste it in the body of your "Comment"
5. Sign & Submit!
AMMA PAC's John Hartsell and Taylor Swick presented at Green Star Doctors' INDICAlife event in Scottsdale on the "Busting the Myths and Misconceptions of the Medical Marijuana Law" panel.
This second installment of the breakdown of the Canadian Cannabis task force report will look more deeply into the statements of the task force regarding the current Canadian attitude toward Cannabis and whether or not it should be legalized as well as statements about the need for research and evidence.
Throughout the information gathering process, the members of the task force stated that they had “heard anxiety about such things as driving, youth access and ‘sending the wrong message,’ but [they] also heard a desire to move away from a culture of fear around cannabis and to acknowledge the existence of more positive medical and social attributes.” They went on to state that they knew there are law enforcement challenges that have happened due to medical Cannabis dispensaries in Canada that are currently doing business that needed examining, as well as new research findings that have come about that have to be addressed.
The report points out that “the current paradigm of cannabis prohibition has been with us for almost 100 years. We cannot, and should not, expect to turn this around overnight. While moving away from cannabis prohibition is long overdue, we may not anticipate every nuance of future policy; after all, our society is still working out issues related to the regulation of alcohol and tobacco. We are aware of the shortcomings in our current knowledge base around cannabis and the effects of cannabis on human health and development. As a result, the recommendations laid out in this report include appeals for ongoing research and surveillance, and a flexibility to adapt to and respond to ongoing and emerging policy needs.”
The task force further showed its understanding about the lack of full scientific Cannabis knowledge when it made the following statements:
"[A]ll of our recommendations would be based on clear, well-documented evidence. However, we recognize that cannabis policy, in its many dimensions, lacks comprehensive, high-quality research in many areas. On many issues throughout our discussions and deliberations, we have found that evidence is often non-existent, incomplete or inconclusive.
Being mindful of these limitations is imperative. It is more appropriate to refer to our recommendations as "evidence-informed" rather than "evidence-based", given that the relationship between evidence and policy is complex and that our recommendations were influenced by the concerns, priorities and values expressed by stakeholders and members of the public, as well as by the available scientific evidence.
Moreover, a clear reality underpins our discussions and deliberations: encouraging and enabling more research and ensuring systematic monitoring, evaluation and reporting on our experiences is essential to good public policy in this area."
Currently it seems that many times American policy-makers allow the lack of a full understanding through scientific research to be the reason that no proactive policy should happen. In comparison, our Canadian counterparts clearly have determined that even though there is lacking evidence, policy must move forward. Then, after this happens, the government should also strive to push for more research. This difference in viewpoint is now allowing the Canadian government to move forward toward country-wide legalization whereas the United States federal government is pushing back heavily against legal Cannabis use country-wide.
The Canadian task force did not continue without first seeking as much in the way of reasoned research as it could find. For example, the task force stated that it determined the following potential risks that Cannabis legalization could pose to Canadians:
The panel hoped to avoid substantial risks associated with consuming Cannabis at too early an age. It did this by setting a minimum age for consumption of Cannabis at 18 federally and allowing individual provincial governments to set higher minimum ages if deemed necessary. It did this even though it determined that there was “no clear scientific evidence to identify a ‘safe’ age of consumption, but agreed that having a minimum age would reduce harm.”
It also determined that setting Cannabis legalization as an adult activity would reinforce the need for someone to use their own reasoned adult decision-making abilities when deciding whether or not to use Cannabis. When determining the minimum age, the task force was apparently told most often by healthcare professionals that a minimum age of 21 was best. The task force ended up setting the age at 18 instead because it was determined that provincial “governments should do all that they can to discourage and delay cannabis use” through “[r]obust preventive measures, including advertising restrictions and public education”.
In the end, the task force was able to adequately determine from the currently available research and evidence that Cannabis is safe to legalize nationally and was able to find specific best practices like the minimum legal age for consumption. This model is something that government officials in the United States should look to as a way to get past the fear of Cannabis in general and the excuse of there not being enough research to go forward specifically.
Source: Government of Canada: Final Report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation
It is now a likelihood that Cannabis will be legal for adult use as throughout Canada early as July 2018 now that a governmental task force issued its final report on why it is best to tax and regulate Cannabis across the country. The framework report can be found here. In this report the Canadian task force determined that all Canadian citizens over the age of 18 should be legally permitted to use and even grow certain amounts of Cannabis. This determination came because of the significant evolution of access to Cannabis in Canada that has happened over the last two decades through the medical Cannabis system that Canada now has. As the report states, what had been learned over time from a medical Cannabis economy, translates to informed thinking by the task force members on the benefits of non-medical Cannabis.
The report goes on to say that “A sophisticated commercial industry that cultivates and distributes cannabis by mail and courier to individuals who require it for medical purposes, and who are under the care of a physician or nurse practitioner, exists in Canada today, with 36 licensed producers in operation at the time of writing this report. This new industry operates under the authority of federal regulations (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) which set out product quality control measures and strict security standards to protect public health and safety. Task Force members had the opportunity to visit some of these producers and were impressed by the sophistication and quality of their work.” It continues by saying that a parallel and illicit market for non-medical Cannabis operates in Canada that must be stopped to protect public safety.
When looking at public safety, the task force went on to examine the comparable hazards of Cannabis compared to alcohol and tobacco. It found that based on a 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) ranking of leading global risk factors for disease, Cannabis is not even included in the list but that it does include alcohol (ranked 3rd) and tobacco (ranked 6th). For reasons like this the task force came to the conclusion that Cannabis regulation should be reduced and that, as is the current policy shift, Canada should continue to more heavily regulate alcohol and tobacco. It also included a hope that as Cannabis is more fully regulated for legal adult use, that lessons are learned from the historical attempts to regulate tobacco and alcohol and the many problems that happened then.
In the report, the task force created a series of guiding principles. These principles are:
To get more information on the determinations in specific areas of this policy statement continue to check in the upcoming weeks for additional AMMA PAC blog posts. These additional posts will more specifically look into the task force recommendations by subject matter.
Source: Government of Canada: Final Report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation
With our email Action Alert this week, AMMA PAC had gotten more than 600 industry leaders to email Governor Ducey to tell him that his statements on 4/20 pushing for total prohibition of Cannabis in Arizona are wrong and do not live up to his Libertarian ideals.
To email Governor Ducey now click here.
Our original Action Alert is below.
Governor Ducey shouted his opposition to cannabis loud and clear on 4/20.
Take ACTION now and email Governor Ducey. Tell him to oppose cannabis prohibition.
Attention: Copy the following and paste it in your email!
Subject: Please Oppose Cannabis Prohibition in Arizona
Dear Governor Ducey,
I am a leader in the cannabis industry in Arizona and at the Marijuana Industry Trade Association (MITA) meeting on Wednesday night, I was told that on 4/20 at the Smart Approaches to Marijuana conference you talked about how you and a well-financed group of opponents were able to defeat Prop. 205.
I thought that you were a libertarian, and therefore I am asking you not to support total prohibition of cannabis and instead support taxation and regulation of it through a legal marketplace. I am asking you to please consider looking at ways that our industry can work with your office to find common ground and to move the cannabis industry forward for a better Arizona.
This legislative session a large group of legislators from both the Democratic and Republican caucuses signed on as co-sponsors to SB1337 with Republican Senator Sonny Borelli, the bill’s primary sponsor in an attempt to create a legal hemp industry in Arizona. This bill passed through the Senate with little opposition and is now in the House of Representatives awaiting a House Rules Committee hearing.
For the proponents of this bill the argument for having a hemp industry in Arizona is simple. In a state with scarce water resources for farming and a large cotton industry, the benefits of growing hemp are dramatic. Unlike cotton, hemp uses far less water when it is being grown for industrial purposes and just like cotton, hemp can be used for basically all of the industrial applications for which cotton is currently farmed. Water savings are not the only reason that hemp is a good investment for Arizona’s farming community. Hemp is a very heat-tolerant plant and it actually reconditions the soil compared to the deplenishing effects of growing cotton. This means that even for farmers of other crops like cotton, hemp can be grown in rotation with the other main crops as a way to make the soil more suitable for additional crops to be grown on that same land in the future.
As the proponents of the bill add, hemp is a variety of the Cannabis plant that can be used to make anything from paper and rope to cosmetics, food and clothing. Hemp is also different from other Cannabis plants because it contains low amounts of the primary psychoactive chemical in Cannabis plants that are used for the production of marijuana. Even with these differences between hemp plants and plants grown for marijuana production, hemp cannot legally be grown industrially in Arizona or most places in the United States because it is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug just like marijuana. This federal classification causes big issues for the growth of this highly beneficial industry in Arizona and other places in the United States and likely is one reason that a small group of legislators are still in opposition to an industrial hemp industry in Arizona.
One such opponent is Republican Senator David Farnsworth. When questioned about his no vote in the Senate on SB1337, Senator Farnsworth stated that he does see hemp’s commercial benefits but that hemp might create challenges for law enforcement to distinguish a small hemp plant from a small marijuana plant and that “[e]nforcement of our marijuana laws would be more difficult if we have a lot of hemp growing”. Finally, Senator Farnsworth has made statements that he is worried that hemp could be used as a backdoor way to legalize marijuana in Arizona, even though no marijuana plants would be able to be grown on hemp fields under the way the bill is written.
Proponents of a hemp industry would likely point out that Senator Farnsworth’s arguments miss the point because the language of SB1337 would set up the process to produce, distribute and sell hemp without changing any of Arizona’s medical marijuana laws and that hemp plants are clearly distinguishable by the naked eye from flowering marijuana plants. Also, SB1337 would create a very stringent program with oversight by the Arizona Department of Agriculture. If passed, SB1337 would require all people employed in the hemp program to pass criminal background checks and all growers and producers would have to keep detailed records about where all hemp is grown. Under this program. all hemp would be inspected and tested by agriculture department. When tested, if any plant is found to have more than 0.3 percent of THC, the crop would be destroyed and the farmer would be banned from growing hemp.
With only a few weeks left in this legislative session, the hope remains that SB1337 will be passed out of the legislature and sent on to the governor for him to sign it into law but until this bill is heard in the Rules Committee it cannot move forward. Check AMMA PAC’s weekly legislative updates for more information on this bill in upcoming weeks.
Source: Cronkite News
by Taylor Swick
During the 2017 Legislative session, multiple Republican sponsored bills were passed and then signed into law by Governor Ducey that will severely stifle, if not end, the ability of voters to initiate their own ballot measures in Arizona and that weaken the Voter Protection Act that protects these ballot measures.
The issue for the Legislators who sponsored and voted in favor of these bills is that voters support the initiative process and the Voter Protection Act. This was demonstrated in a poll that asked voters both about the Voter Protection Act and their support of industries that were started because of successful ballot measures in the past. One such industry that is supported by those questioned in the poll and that came from a voter initiative is Arizona’s medical marijuana industry.
In the Arizona Public Opinion Poll conducted by Remington Research Group on March 7 and March 8, 2017, 1,371 registered voters were surveyed about legislative attempts to repeal or weaken Proposition 105, the Voter Protection Act. (NOTE: This survey was weighted to match the expected turnout demographics for the 2018 General Election. The Margin of Error is +/-3% with a 95% level of confidence and the totals do not always equal 100% due to rounding.)
Some of the questions and answers from this survey that relate to the cannabis industry are listed below:
Q: Arizona’s Voter Protection Act ensures laws passed by Arizona citizens through a ballot measure or referendum cannot be changed. There is a proposal in the State Legislature to submit a ballot measure that would weaken or eliminate Arizona’s Voter Protection Act. Do you support or oppose this proposal?
Strongly support: 8%
Somewhat support: 8%
TOTAL SUPPORT: 16%
Somewhat oppose: 10%
Strongly oppose: 53%
TOTAL OPPOSE: 63%
Prompt: I will now read you a handful of brief statements concerning the proposal to reduce or eliminate Arizona’s Voter Protection Act. Please indicate, after hearing each statement, if it makes you more likely or less likely to support the proposal to reduce or eliminate Arizona’s Voter Protection Act.
Q: Reducing or eliminating the Voter Protection Act will allow politicians to repeal the voter approved law that allows for access to medical marijuana.
More likely to support: 22%
Less likely to support: 60%
No difference: 17%
Q: If a question to reduce or eliminate the Arizona Voter Protection Act were to appear on an election ballot, and the election were held today, would you vote yes to reduce or eliminate the Voter Protection Action, or would you vote no.
Q: If your State Senator or Representative supported the weakening or elimination of the Voter Protection Act, would this make you more likely to support or more likely to oppose their re-election?
More likely to support: 12%
More likely to oppose: 71%
What do the results from this poll signify? One thing that seems to stand out is that the bills passed by the Legislature this session that do harm to voter initiatives and the Voter Protection Act go strongly against what Arizona’s voters feel is right. Potentially that signals that a majority of the Legislature now is out of touch with what their constituents want or that the legislative attempts to harm the Voter Protection Act and initiatives were done to benefit those in power rather than the people who elected them.
One thing we can determine is that Arizona’s cannabis industry will have a much harder time passing anything at the ballot in the future unless these new laws are deemed unconstitutional or challenged at the ballot.