MESA – On a recent weekday morning, Paul Petersen of Florence was one of the first to arrive at Mint Dispensary to get something not usually offered at the cannabis shop: a free COVID-19 vaccine.
The 40-year-old had been holding off on getting vaccinated to see how others responded but was persuaded by an added perk: Mint’s Snax for Vaxx event. Mint gave away one free edible and a pre-rolled joint to anyone 21 or older receiving a Moderna vaccine.
Petersen said he took advantage of the opportunity to acquire “two things at once.”
“I’m comfortable with it now,” he said of the vaccination process, “but I didn’t trust the science before.”
With COVID-19 vaccination rates declining in Arizona and other states, public and private entities are using incentives to reverse the trend and get more shots into more arms.
In Arizona, Mint joined with Commerce Medical Group to provide vaccinations at pop-up clinics June 1 through 3 at its locations in Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix. Forty doses were brought to each location, and about two-thirds were distributed, said Kristy Jozwiak, a spokesperson for Mint.
Linzy Volm, a medical assistant for Commerce Medical Group who helped at the Mesa location, said more people turned up than she’d expected.
“I think it helps, giving a reward for (the shots),” she said. “But it kind of sucks that it has to come down to people being bribed to get vaccinated.”
PHOENIX – The unofficial marijuana holiday, April 20, has become a popular day around the world.
This year, it comes at a time when the marijuana landscape is drastically changing in terms of its acceptance from a recreational standpoint and in the medical field. It’s also a substance that has been the root of much controversy in the sporting world, a substance some athletes are pushing their respective leagues to accept as a form of alternative medicine, especially for its potential value in phasing opioid use out of sports.
Jake Plummer, the legendary Arizona State quarterback and former Arizona Cardinals signal-caller, is among those athletes pushing for marijuana reform in sports. He believes the benefits far outweigh the potential negatives.
“It could help you sleep, reduce anxiety, inflammation, arthritis,” Plummer said. “Here we are talking about football players with inflammation, the onset of arthritis, with sleep issues, with anxiety, PTSD and all this crazy stuff, and here’s this natural plant that can help with all that.”
Before the 2020 NFL season, the league announced drastic changes to its drug policy as part of its new collective bargaining agreement. The window for the NFL to test players for THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces a high sensation, was narrowed from four months to two weeks at the outset of training camp.
Players who test positive for THC will only receive game suspensions if they exceed the new 150 nanogram limit, a 115 nanogram increase from the former policy.
Applications for adult-use sales began on Jan. 19, but were restricted to existing medical marijuana establishments that qualified for early "dual license" applications. The language of Proposition 207 that legalized cannabis use for adults over the age of 21 gave AZDHS two months to review and approve applications.
By the end of last week week, though, 86 licenses had been approved. Several Tucson dispensaries have also been authorized for recreational sales, including Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center, Green Med/Purple Med (6464 E. Tanque Verde and 1010 S. Freeway Drive), Prime Leaf (4220 E. Speedway and 1525 N. Park Ave.) and Nature Med (5390 W. Ina Road in Marana).
Nature Med has announced it will open to recreational sales on Feb. 25 and Prime Leaf is shooting for March 1.
Most dispensaries are not yet ready to start recreational sales, as there are several barriers to immediately expanding, not the least of which is the current state of the coronavirus pandemic still raging through the state.Find more details here.
Harvest Dispensary became the first Tucson-area dispensary to start selling recreational marijuana yesterday, with long lines forming outside the midtown outlet at 2734 E. Grant Road.
Harvest's opening came after the Arizona Department of Health Services gave the go-ahead last week for recreational cannabis sales to begin, letting dispensary owners know adult-use recreational sales can move forward as soon as licenses are approved and dispensaries are set up to handle both aspects of the market.
Applications for adult-use sales began on Jan. 19, but were restricted to existing medical marijuana establishments that qualified for early applications. The language of Proposition 207 that legalized cannabis use for adults over the age of 21 gave AZDHS two months to review and approve applications. As of Wednesday, Jan. 21, there were 62 applications for so-called “dual-licenses.”
Most cannabis advocates and those following the process expected sales to begin in late-March or early April, but with last week’s announcement, the door opened for an accelerated timetable.
Several other local dispensaries have also been authorized for recreational sales, including Green Med/Purple Med, Prime Leaf and Nature Med. But some of those dispensaries are not yet ready to start recreational sales, as there are several barriers to immediately opening up adult-use sales, not the least of which is the current state of the coronavirus pandemic still raging through the state.
Aside from that, some dispensaries might run into space and inventory issues and will need to have new operating procedures and dual point of sales systems to deal with differing tax rates and cost structures.
There is also a looming staffing shortage, as dispensary employees will now have to have multiple certifications to work in the industry.
“For us, it’s COVID—public and employee safety,” said Brian Warde, co-owner and CEO of Prime Leaf in Tucson. “Realistically you could have 150 people in line and might see over 1,000-plus patients a day most the days.”
Just from the standpoint of current patient patronage, that means to properly social distance Prime Leaf would need the equivalent of three football fields of space to accommodate the patient load. Warde says he is also waiting for inoculations for his employees that realistically won’t happen before March.
“Managing the inventory and workflow to ensure medical patients don’t run out of what they need, is also a big consideration,” he said. “We want to give patients what they have come to expect, and not allow the adult-use market to alter our patients’ experience. So slow rolling it to make sure we are in the best possible position to meet everyone’s expectations.”This post has been updated.
PHOENIX – Recreational use of marijuana will soon be legal in Arizona, thanks to Proposition 207’s easy passage, but economic and logistical hurdles remain before Arizonans will feel the effects.
The measure – approved by more than 60% of voters in unofficial results from Nov. 3 – decriminalizes recreational marijuana use and possession for those 21 or older; allows minor, nonviolent marijuana offenders to petition to have their criminal records expunged; and imposes an excise tax to support underfunded programs across the state.
Once the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office certifies the proposition, which is expected to happen in December, the use and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana will be legal except in public spaces. Despite the law’s passage, however, marijuana possession, distribution and use remain federal crimes.
Dispensaries and growers, which have become a familiar presence in Arizona since voters narrowly approved marijuana for medical use in 2010, will have to wait for state approval to sell marijuana for recreational uses. Application for state licenses is expected to open in January, and organizers of Proposition 207 are predicting an April 5 launch for recreational sales.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of very curious people that want to walk into the dispensary because they weren’t able to do that before,” said Raul Molina, chief operations officer at the Mint Dispensary in Tempe.
A key element of Proposition 207 is the opportunity to expunge a criminal record, which can impede employment, nullify the right to vote and harm reputations.
Proposition 207 is the first voter measure in Arizona that offers expungement, according to Jared Keenan, a senior staff attorney at American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. But the process may differ in each of Arizona’s 15 counties, depending on the population and whether the county attorney supported the measure.
Prosecutors can petition against moves to expunge records. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has not given a stance on expungement but has announced it will immediately drop all pending and unfiled charges of marijuana possession based on “the will of the voters.”
Currently, Keenan said, all marijuana convictions are felonies, which means convicts could lose their right to vote, their access to public housing and food assistance, and their eligibility for federal student loans. A criminal record also makes it harder to get a job.
LOS ANGELES – California’s record wildfire season has left many cannabis growers concerned about Croptober – the primary harvest season for marijuana sold in California, where it’s legally consumed.
As fires continue burning into the record book, California growers – whose operations are federally illegal and therefore difficult to insure – are demanding protections for their billion-dollar industry.
Cannabis farms, as well as wineries, agricultural farms, have been hard hit by the wide range of California fires, and the toll faced by cannabis farms is among the worst.
Since January, California has had more than 9,177 wildfires burning more than 4.1 million acres, which is more than double the old record in 2018, according to Cal Fire.
High in the hills overlooking the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, Kila Peterson and her daughter, Keala Peterson, are partners on Sweet Creek Farm, a small family-owned and licensed cannabis farm that also grows avocados and sweet bananas.
The cannabis venture started more than 10 years ago when Kila began growing it to produce CBD for her father, who had cancer. The mother-daughter approach is rooted in sustainability; their techniques include a solar-powered irrigation system fed by rainwater catchment and pollinator-friendly companion flowers, according to the farm’s website.
WASHINGTON – A Navajo Nation probe of a controversial, Navajo-owned hemp operation has turned into a federal investigation into reports of marijuana production, interstate drug trafficking and violations of labor and child labor laws.
The FBI said Monday it had executed search warrants “in the area of Shiprock” in an operation that included nine federal agencies as well as state, tribal and local agencies from at least three states. It released few other details.
But the Navajo Nation Department of Justice said the search warrants targeted “suspected illegal marijuana farming” at the Navajo Gold hemp farming operation run by Dineh Benally, former president of the nation’s San Juan River Farm Board.
“Dineh Benally and his investors sought to take advantage of what they believed to be a jurisdictional gap on the Navajo Nation that would allow them to operate outside the law,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement Tuesday.
“They did not count on the diligence or effectiveness of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice to be able to enforce our own laws through our own courts,” Nez’s statement said.