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Marijuana News in Arizona and World

Sparked by stories of epileptic children finding treatment in Colorado with CBD oil, lawmakers across the country have made a dramatic change in how they view marijuana.

So far, nine states have passed laws legalizing either the use of non-psychoactive marijuana extracts (CBD oil) for medical use or for the study of such products. These states have recently approved CBD-related medical marijuana bills: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

In Missouri and North Carolina the legislatures have passed CBD bills that are only in need of signatures from each states’ respective governor.

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Zonka Bars Edibles

On July 3rd, an event is being held for Arizona medical marijuana patient Chris Martin who’s pre-trial hearing is on July 7th in Yavapai County. Martin, a celebrated chef and the founder of Billy Zonka’s Edibles and the ZonkaGear clothing line, is facing more than 125 years in prison for creating marijuana edibles.

This case has generated national attention because of the severe punishment being sought after in a country and state where the stance on marijuana is turning towards legalization. Creating marijuana edibles and concentrates was illegal in 2012 when Martin was arrested, but nevertheless, it’s still a wonder why a life sentence is being sought after by Arizona authorities.

In conjunction with Safer Arizona and The Human Solution East Valley, Martin will be holding a press conference at Up in Smoke smoke shop in Tempe to educate the public on the rights of defendants charged with marijuana offenses.

The panel will discuss the struggles medical marijuana patients face when prosecuted and what protections are needed to be built into the upcoming 2016 citizens’ initiative for marijuana legalization in Arizona. Safer Arizona, Arizona’s marijuana reform PAC, sponsored the 2014 Arizona marijuana legalization initiative and is currently working with the marijuana reform group, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), on the public outreach and drafting phases of the 2016 Arizona marijuana legalization campaign.

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Medical Marijuana and Guns

An amendment has been drawn up and offered in the Senate that would forbid the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) from intentionally targeting permit holding gun owners simply because they are also medical marijuana patients.

Senator John Walsh of Montana submitted the amendment in hopes that it would keep the ATF from using taxpayers’ money to attack legal gun-owning medical marijuana patients in the 23 states that currently allow medical marijuana. It would also protect patients in other states that have legalized CBD oil to help treat seizures.

The ATF sent out a letter in 2011 telling federal firearm licensees forbidding them to sell firearms or even ammunition to any marijuana users, despite whether or not they are in compliance with state law. The letter quite plainly states: “Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by federal law form possessing firearms or ammunition.”

The majority of Americans strongly disagrees with everything this letter stands for and feels that marijuana is a much less harmful substance than prescription medication and alcohol and hope that the senate will vote in their favor. A vote could come as soon as Friday.

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Oregon Marijuana
Oregon marijuana advocates have collected over 145,000 signatures to which they will submit in hopes of placing the legalization of marijuana on the ballot come November.

New Approach Oregon, a marijuana advocacy program, needed 87,213 signatures due by July third in order to get on the ballot this November.  Organizations typically find that roughly one third of all signatures collected will in turn be deemed invalid, hence the 145,000 signatures collected.  Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman from New Approach Oregon said, “We are confident that our measures to regulate, legalize and tax marijuana will qualify for the November ballot and that Oregonians are open to the case for a smarter and more responsible approach to marijuana.”

If the bill were to pass, adults would be permitted to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and would be permitted to grow up to four plants.  Marijuana would be sold with a flat tax of $35 per ounce of marijuana (flowers).

A recent survey has shown that Oregon voters are more than likely to approve one of the three legalization amendments that might appear on this November’s ballots.

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FDA Medical Marijuana
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is conducting an analysis at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) request on whether the United States should downgrade the classification of marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug, said Douglas Throckmorton, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs at the FDA, at a congressional hearing.

The FDA reviewed the status of marijuana for the DEA in 2001 and 2006 and recommended it remain a Schedule 1 substance. The DEA has since been petitioned to change the classification of marijuana. “We’re in the process of conducting an eight-factor analysis,” said Throckmorton.

Throckmorton would not say when he expects the FDA to complete its analysis or whether it would recommend a change. The agency would first consult with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and then send the recommendation through the Department of Health and Human Services before handing it to the DEA.

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NY Marijuana

The Empire State has become the 23rd state in the US to permit medical marijuana. The senate debated for what lasted roughly 3 hours, but the bill finally came to a vote where it passed by a vote of 113-13. The newly amended bill which is now being called the “Compassionate Care Act” will now make its way to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for final approval.

John A. DeFrancisco, the Senate Finance Committee Chairman, was among the first to argue against the original version of the Compassionate Care Act, but changed his mind once he saw the new amendments added on by Senator Diane J. Savino which addressed his initial concerns. And while he still voted no on the bill because of a lack of medical evidence, he did so knowing that the bill would pass.

DeFrancisco said, “I think Senator Savino has shown spirit and tenacity to get the bill done, a bill that most likely today is going to pass. In respects to the final bill, it’s light years better than the original bill. There’s much more control and supervision.”

In addition to DeFrancisco, other lawmakers felt that while they were still opposed to medical marijuana in general, Senator Savino and some of the other sponsors of the bill made it easier to understand and eventually showed them that they were moving in the right direction.

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Safer Arizona
Arizonans won’t be legally purchasing marijuana for recreational purposes in the near future as the initiative to legalize marijuana recreationally in Arizona in 2014 fell short of the 250,000 signatures needed to get onto the ballot.

Safer Arizona announced that they have officially stopped gathering signatures as it seemed unattainable to reach the necessary number of signatures by the required date. Mikel Weisser, director of Safer Arizona said, “It was around a third of what we were after. It’s not going to be a number that we are rallying behind; it’s a benchmark to improve from.” It seemed as if the initiative was doomed to fail from the beginning due to a lack of manpower and funding.

“One of the things we have is tens of thousands of people who have already signed for us, and hundreds of people who have already volunteered for us and now we will be able to build out of that a much mightier ballot initiative.”

The ballot initiative even received some pushback from Arizona medical marijuana professionals because they felt it would have disrupted their current business models.

Weisser and other pro-legalization members in Arizona are already gearing up for the 2016 initiative and are confident that they will be able to gather the necessary signatures needed to truly make a run at legalization. He went to say, “One of the things we have is tens of thousands of people who have already signed for us, and hundreds of people who have already volunteered for us and now we will be able to build out of that a much mightier ballot initiative.”

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Marijuana Cops
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Colorado is pushing for the Denver Police Department to begin allowing its officers to use marijuana recreationally as opposed to alcohol. This news comes after Police Chief Robert White announced that there is some questionable alcohol use going on in the department.

Following a number of alcohol-related officer arrests this year, White ordered that the department look into how they handle alcohol abuse on the force. The MPP hopes that they will look into the possibility of lifting their zero-tolerance ban on marijuana within the department as a safer alternative to the use of alcohol.

Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of communications says that, “Denver police officers know as well as anyone that alcohol use is a far bigger threat to public safety than marijuana use. Drunk and rowdy people cause them problems all day at work. It should not be a problem for them to relax after work by using marijuana instead of alcohol, if that’s what they prefer.”

Harvest of Tempe Dispensary

A new nationwide program called Patient Focused Certification (PFC) has recently certified two Arizona medical marijuana businesses and one in New Mexico.

Americans for Safe Access, or ASA, put together the PFC program so that there would be a non-profit, third party group to certify medical marijuana quality being produced and sold for consumer use in the United States.

The first dispensary in Arizona to get the PFC is Harvest of Tempe. While the first medical marijuana lab testing facility to get the PFC is AZ Med Testing. The New Mexicann dispensary in Santa Fe was the first New Mexico business to receive the PFC.

Last month, a New York Times columnist wrote about her terrible experience after ingesting a marijuana edible in Colorado. PFC hopes to make instances like these a thing of the past through rigorous testing and proper labeling. Although it’s going to take a long time before they are able to certify each and every dispensary across the country, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Find Arizona dispensaries.

Jamaica Marijuana Legalization

The Jamaican government said Thursday that the country is planning to revamp its marijuana laws by moving to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and allowing possession for religious, scientific, and medicinal uses.

Under the government’s proposed changes, the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana would become a petty offense resulting in a fine, instead of a criminal arrest.

The new rules are a major improvement for Jamaica’s Rastafari, who smoke marijuana as a spiritual sacrament, and have continually faced the threat of prosecution because of it.

Justice Minister Mark Golding stated, “I wish to stress that the proposed changes to the law are not intended to promote or give a stamp of approval to the use of ganja for recreational purposes. The objective is to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession of small quantities.”