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Marijuana News in Arizona and World

Arizona Recreational Marijuana Legalization

A new study conducted by the non-partisan Tax Foundation suggests that Arizona could receive up to $113 million from tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales. If the state’s voters approve recreational marijuana legalization on November’s ballots, these numbers could become a reality for the state. The tax on recreational marijuana sales would likely be set at flat 15 percent.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is petitioning for voter support in marijuana legalization, reports AZ Central. Tax dollars from recreational sales would help fund public health issues across the state, full-day kindergarten options, and other education programs. If the recreational marijuana measure passes, adults 21 and older could possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 6 plants at home.

Regulatory language includes provisions for the creation of the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control. This organization would regulate cultivation, testing, transport, sales and manufacturing.

Additional information from the study suggests that nationwide legalization taxed at a flat 15 percent could raise $5.3 billion dollars in taxes nationwide.

“While ending prohibition is the No. 1 reason to legalize marijuana use for adults, providing tens of millions of dollars for schools and local governments is a significant bonus for voters. These are dollars that no longer go to drug cartels but instead help our schools and local governments provide important services,” stated a marijuana supporter.

Marijuana Veterans

Congress has given veterans the right to discuss medical marijuana use as a treatment option with Veterans Affairs doctors in states where medical marijuana is legalized.

The new legislation allows VA doctors to discuss medical marijuana and complete the required paperwork for state-legalized medical marijuana programs, but it doesn’t allow the VA to sell medical marijuana or cover costs for veterans, the Military Times reports.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer stated, “The death rate from opioids among VA health care is nearly double the national average. From what I hear from veterans is that medical marijuana has helped them deal with pain and PTSD, particularly as an alternative to opioids.”

The VA is recommending that its doctors use evidence-based therapies that have been proven by scientific research to be effective with medical marijuana; for instance, treating PTSD, depression or chronic pain.


Marijuana DUI Arizona

An attorney from the Arizona law firm Rowley Chapman & Barney, Ltd., shares insight into Arizona’s marijuana DUI laws and affirmative defense. Attorney Brian Strong wrote an article on the law firm’s website describing his experience with defending Arizonans from marijuana DUI charges.

The article states:

“As an experienced Arizona DUI defense attorney, I have defended numerous individuals who have been charged with violating the DUI statutes because marijuana or an active metabolite was found in their blood. While the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (the “AMMA”) does offer an affirmative defense to DUI-marijuana, this particular affirmative defense is relatively new in the law. Consequently, we are just beginning to learn how a jury might apply, or misapply, some key concepts.

Not surprisingly, most AMMA patients who speak with me seem dismayed that they can even be charged with DUI as the result of medical marijuana use. After all, doesn’t a medical marijuana card provide absolute immunity from a DUI prosecution? Sadly, in Arizona, the answer is no. Medical marijuana patients only get an affirmative defense.

In the criminal realm, an affirmative defense is a matter of avoiding legal consequences – not proving innocence. An affirmative defense does not disprove any of the essential elements of the State’s case. Rather, an affirmative defense introduces new facts that allow the defendant to commit an otherwise unlawful act but suffer no punishment. Insanity and statutes of limitation are two of the most common affirmative defenses.

In November of 2015, the Supreme Court of Arizona emphasized that while the AMMA “broadly immunizes registered qualifying patients for their medical use of marijuana, that grant of immunity is not absolute.” Dobson v. McClennen, 238 Ariz. 389, 361 P.3d 374, 376 (2015). What the AMMA does provide is that “a registered qualifying patient shall not be considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.” A.R.S. § 36–2802(D) (emphasis added).

As a result, under the AMMA affirmative defense, a driver must present evidence that: (1) the driver was a qualified patient under the AMMA; and (2) the driver was not impaired at the time of his or her arrest. The driver’s own testimony that he or she was not impaired is an obvious and essential component of any AMMA affirmative defense. In addition, an expert witness toxicologist should also be retained to educate the jury regarding impairment.

In a DUI-alcohol case, a blood alcohol level of .08 has decades of scientific research to support a presumption of impairment. The same, however, is not true in DUI-drug cases. Arizona’s appellate courts have repeatedly acknowledged that “unlike alcohol, there is no generally applicable concentration that can be identified as an indicator of impairment for illegal drugs.” 361 P.3d at 378 (citations omitted). Yet most lay jurors are probably unfamiliar with this scientific fact. The right expert witness can teach the jury the undisputed science that will lead to a correct verdict in a medical marijuana DUI. On the other hand, an improperly presented AMMA affirmative defense can have disastrous consequences for a qualified marijuana patient.”

Colorado Marijuana Industry

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper heavily criticized legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado but now concedes that the industry is working. Although he opposed legalization back in 2012, it was his duty as Governor to give the people of Colorado what they wanted.

Hickenlooper is reported to have previously called the legalization of recreational marijuana as reckless, reports the LA Times. But he has changed his position and stated that if he could reverse his initial decision, he would.

Hickenlooper recently said, “It’s beginning to look like it might work,” in regards to marijuana legalization.

Mason Tvert of the nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project said, “The predictions of fire and brimstone have failed to materialize. Most Coloradoans, including the governor, recognize that the law is working.”

None of the concerns that Hickenlooper had prior to recreational legalization in Colorado have come to fruition. The state is thriving and expects to collect upwards of $100 million in tax dollars to state organizations in 2016, with 70 percent of those tax dollars going to public programs like education.

Marijuana Coordination for Colorado director, Andrew Freedman, said, “In the short run, there have been a lot fewer public safety and health issues than the governor feared in the beginning. In the beginning, we had problems with edibles and hash oil fires but now, for the most part, Colorado looks a lot like it did before legalization.”

Tvert added that, “The state’s image is actually rising. We were just ranked as the best place to live in America. The idea that businesses would not relocated here or conferences wouldn’t be held here was untrue. In fact, attendees at conferences are now offered pot tours as day trips.”

Marijuana Tax

An independent think tank called The Tax Foundation recently conducted a study to assess how much tax revenue the federal government and states are losing from not legalizing marijuana. They estimated that roughly $28 billion in tax revenue is being missed out on. Approximately $7 billion of it would go to the federal government and the remainder to the states.

The potential tax revenue received by the government from legalized marijuana would primarily be from business and payroll taxes and some from excise taxes, according to The Washington Post. The idea would be to tax marijuana in a similar way to tobacco products.

The government can actually capitalize on production by taxing each pound of marijuana produced, which is similar to the per-pound tax on tobacco products. A 10 percent sales surtax could generate $5.3 billion with proper guidelines in place.

Some are concerned that marijuana legalization would create social difficulties. They expect abuse and use of the plant to increase. They expect addiction to take place. The fact of the matter is, regardless of its legal status, a vast amount of Americans are using marijuana daily. The costs of prohibition are to the tune of several billion dollars per year. Legalization would bring billions of dollars in tax revenues to organizations that need them for mental health, education, crime prevention and more.

Marijuana Alcohol

The group backing the initiative to legalize marijuana in Arizona that is anticipated to appear on this November’s ballot, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), called on the initiative’s opposing group to return a $10,000 donation from the Arizona alcohol industry on grounds of hypocrisy.

Anti-marijuana group, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP), has repeatedly argued that marijuana should remain illegal because it is too dangerous, according to Phoenix New Times. However, scientists have repeatedly proven that marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol.

The $10,000 donation from last month came from the Arizona Wine and Spirits Association, a trade association representing numerous alcohol wholesalers.

“Using alcohol money to fund their campaign to maintain marijuana prohibition is grossly hypocritical,” said J.P. Holyoak, CRMLA Chairman. “They want to continue punishing adults for using marijuana, but they have no problem accepting five-figure donations from purveyors of a far more harmful substance. Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy should return this contribution immediately. If they don’t, they should just acknowledge that their campaign has nothing to do with promoting public health and is merely based on anti-marijuana prejudice.”

CRMLA needs only 150,000 valid signatures by July to get on the November ballot, and currently has collected over 215,000 gross signatures.

“As we finish the signature drive and launch the final stage of the campaign, we anticipate that our opponents will be ramping up their efforts,” said Holyoak. “As they do, we will be watching closely to see whether they continue to receive support from the alcohol industry or from companies that promote the use of alcohol. Our campaign is not opposed to alcohol, but we are opposed to hypocrisy. It is simply inappropriate and objectionable for those who profit from the sale of alcohol to use those profits to prohibit adults from using a less harmful substance.”

Tempe Dispensary

Healing Health Care 3 is attempting to open a dispensary in Tempe by Arizona State University’s Karsten Golf Course at McClintock Drive and Rio Salado Parkway. The hopeful dispensary is arguing that the City of Tempe wrongfully exercised a zoning regulation to block their opening.

Healing Health Care 3 claims that a member of the Board of Adjustment, David Lyon, has a conflict of interest, as reported by AZ Central. A second appeal is scheduled to be heard on May 25th. Lyon is employed by SmithGroupJJR, a company currently retained by Arizona State University for redevelopment plans.

Jeffrey Gross, a representative for Healing Health Care 3, said, “This conflict is made all the worse because Mr. Lyon was the acting chairman and had the ability to direct the discussion and the outcome of the vote.”

In response, David Lyon said, “SmithGroupJJR has well over 1,000 employees and many clients. I have not ever done any projects for ASU, and I am not particularly aware of projects that SmithGroup might have for ASU. “

Lyons also claimed that his vote was based on facts and city regulations alone.

If a second appeal is rejected, Healing Health Care 3 will move forward to Maricopa County Superior Court for additional attempts.


Homeless Marijuana

In an effort to assist the increasing homeless population in Aurora, Colorado, the city has decided to allocate $1.5 million in recreational marijuana sales tax dollars to aid those in need.

City councilman, Bob Roth said, “We wanted to be able to show citizens that we are having a positive impact on the community and point to specific projects or initiatives to where that money is going to.”

It is reported that Colfax Community Network will receive $200,000 in relief which will help families living out of motels, the Huffington Post reports. Two other groups, Comitis Crisis Center and Aurora Mental Health, will be provided with vans for homeless outreach programs. Additional funding for non-profit organizations and community groups to assist other suffering programs.

Additional intentions for the tax dollars includes mobile showering stations, vouchers for personal needs and general community outreach services. It is also an intention of these programs to eventually provide permanent supportive-type housing and social services for those needing assistance.

FL Medical Marijuana

A recent poll by Quinnipiac University reveals that 80 percent of Florida voters support medical marijuana legalization. Only 16 percent of Floridians are in opposition. A majority of those in support of medical marijuana are also in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in Florida.

Florida’s medical marijuana law will be implemented in July of 2016, but is very limited, allowing only for marijuana with high CBD and low THC content for Floridians with non-terminal illnesses. A new medical marijuana initiative with broader terms will be on the Florida ballot this November.

In every age category polled, at least 70 percent of voters voted in support of legalization, Sun Sentinel reports. Political affiliation appeared to not play a role in the poll results. Some voters fear a repeat of the 2014 vote that narrowly failed as Florida requires a minimum of 60 percent of votes to be in favor of an amendment for it to pass.

The poll was conducted between April 27th and May 8th. It also showed that those over 65 and Republicans were less favorable of legalizing recreational marijuana. Overall, 56 percent of those polled support recreational marijuana legalization.

Football Marijuana

NFL player Eugene Monroe has openly advocated for NFL players to be able to use medical marijuana in lieu of opioid painkillers for quite some time. And recently he donated $80,000 towards researching the effectiveness of medical marijuana for football players.  The research will be conducted by University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.

Monroe said, “As a player, I’m not allowed to use cannabis, but I’ve been prescribed opioids for various injuries. The opioids work, but they’re very dangerous and highly addictive.”

Monroe has previously urged the NFL to remove marijuana from the prohibited substances list, reports

Researcher Marcel Bonn-Miller said, “We’re doing two studies to start. We’ll be examining both current and retired NFL players to understand the impact of cannabis or cannabinoid use on recovering from an injury.”

In response to opioid addiction in the NFL, Monroe said, “Opioids are ruining lives across the country, and as athletes we’re not immune to those perils. This is an issue that goes beyond any personal career implications. I understand why other players may be adverse to speaking out, but our health is worth it.”