Up In Smoke: As the Legislature Grinds On, Only Two Pot Bills Remain


It's been an eventful legislative session, what with all the voter restriction bills and Republicans pretending to eat their own by “punishing” Wendy Rogers for hanging out with Nazis while they pivot on their love for Putin in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.

Given that, all in all it has not been a completely terrible session for pot lovers, although there are still two mediocre bills that are not quite dead yet.

This legislative session kicked off on Jan. 10 and there were far fewer marijuana bills than last year, although what’s left consists of ideas repackaged from last year and a good bill gone bad because of a late amendment.

There were nine bills this session— after upwards of 20 last year, when the legislature endured a 171-day session and Gov. Ducey vetoed nearly two dozen bills to try to push more tax cuts through for his wealthy buddies.

“It’s been a really weird, slow cannabis bill reality with respect to the legislature,” director of Arizona NORML Mike Robinette said at a Southern Arizona NORML board meeting at Harambe Cafe last week. “They’re focused on other stuff , it’s clear.”


Given the partisan makeup of the legislature and the ability of elected officials to gut bills and replace them with completely unrelated content—known as “strikers”—Robinette is not prepared to call any bill completely dead. But most of the proposed cannabis legislation for this year has hit a dead end.

That does not mean, however, they will not come back next year, as zombies are wont to do.

TWO BILLS STILL HAVE A PULSE

Two bills have made it partially through the process and were scheduled for more votes this week, after the Weedly deadline. SB1402, sponsored by Sen. David Gowan (R-LD14), would change 13 rural licenses awarded last April into dual-use licenses.

The licenses are currently adult-use recreational only and were issued in April 2021 in order to fill a void in rural Arizona counties.

The “backfill” was a big win for a few dispensary owners, but not so much for medical cannabis patients who are stuck paying recreational prices—including a 16% excise (aka sales) tax on product—for their medicine.

The bill is intended to fix that oversight, but a recent amendment would add the medical licenses to the state total and count against the cap on the number of licenses enshrined in statute.

AZNORML initially supported the bill because it had the possibility of increasing competition and driving down prices, but is leery about it with the amendment.

The bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee on Feb. 2 with a 6-2 vote and the Rules Committee on Feb. 21. Early this week (after deadline) it went to a committee of the whole (COW), where all members of the legislative assembly get together for discussion.

“It was a perfect bill, but then they ruined it with an amendment,” he said. “The only way to drive prices down is more competition.”

Likewise SB1715, sponsored by Gowan and co-sponsored by Sens. Sonny Borelli (R-LD5) and Rebecca Rios (D-LD27), which would ban hemp-derived Delta 8, Delta 10 and a variety of other hemp derived cannabinoids, was heading to the Senate Rules Committee early this week.

The bill would keep non-cannabis derived products out of the market and likely put manufacturers of hemp products out of business due to cost increases for raw materials. Hemp-derived products are not subjected to testing that is done in the marijuana industry, but there are two manufacturers in the state that fully test products who would be hurt by the bill.

Should it pass through the Rules Committee, it would still face an uphill battle, as it would require a three-quarters vote because of voter protections.