Double Trouble

A pair of state bills take aim at medicinal patients, and their medicine.

Rep. Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke

Two more state bills are making their way through the legislative gauntlet to restrict medical marijuana use, despite the intent of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act to make alternative treatment more available.

Both bills, introduced by Rep. Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, aim to limit the number of people using medical marijuana in Arizona, but given the state constitution's restrictions on changing voter-approved laws, they could run into trouble despite heavy support in the Republican-controlled legislature.

The House first heard HB2066, which addresses the overflowing coffers of the state's Department of Health Services. The bill would allow some of that money to go toward "youth education and messaging on the dangers of marijuana to prevent youth marijuana use."

Hopefully those kids are as scared of naps, giggles and the munchies as their parents, because otherwise the "dangers" aren't really going to scare them straight.

While I often profess the need for quality education around marijuana, the concern here is clear: This is a way for the state's hot-headed opponents to further their agenda and manipulate the public perception of marijuana.

Imagining this "education" with a general tone of "hey, don't let it take over your life, but marijuana can help with some stuff" is much more difficult than imagining an officer showing kids photos of the cartel members they picked up trafficking thousands of pounds of marijuana across the border.

It's easy to manipulate children's minds around the "rule of law" when the biggest danger of marijuana is that the omnipotent U.S. government decided you shouldn't be able to have it.

The bill ran into trouble on the floor, thankfully, as it fell four votes short of the three-fourths vote necessary to change a ballot initiative.

Even if it does pass, a legal challenge could mandate this "messaging" encourage medical marijuana use in an ironic twist as any amendments to the AMMA must further the intent of the act, which, quite clearly, was to make medical marijuana available to Arizona residents.

The second bill, HB2068, would restrict use and possession among qualifying patients and caregivers should they be convicted of drug-related charges, DUIs or crimes as a minor.

The House Rules Committee, which hears, and promptly ignores, potential issues surrounding the constitutional challenges of bills, voted 4-3 along party lines in favor of the bill despite its obvious contradiction to the AMMA.

On the surface, HB2068 looks like a common-sense way to crack down on abusers of the program, which makes sense with its restrictions surrounding drug related charges. But again, if passed, the bill could simply serve as another way to punish medical marijuana users for completely unrelated offenses.

It's hard to argue whatever crimes someone committed as a child or even a past DUI could somehow make your choice of medicine a greater social liability. Given the bill's language, those with past mistakes for which they've atoned could have their liberty stripped even further.

There are already consequences for juvenile crimes and DUIs. Adding a restriction on what medicine people can and can't use is completely arbitrary without the clear motive of Republicans' my-way-or-the-highway platform.