High Hopes for High Times

Arizona continues efforts towards legal marijuana

The failure of Prop 205 may have been a sobering realization for some, but others still have high hopes for the future of marijuana in Arizona.

Several new efforts have popped up to change the landscape of Arizona's marijuana landscape since voters rejected this year's recreational proposition.

The most promising initiative comes from the Independent Wellness Center in Apache Junction, and intends not to legalize recreational marijuana, but to increase the number of qualifying conditions for patients to be eligible for a medical marijuana card.

This fact may help the initiative's proponents avoid the ire of the forces that opposed Prop 205 since much of that opposition stood on the ground that medical marijuana was already readily available.

Arizona's current qualifying conditions already include the most common diseases such as cancer, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS and conditions like chronic pain, nausea and seizures.

The Arizona Department of Health Services even saw fit to use its authority to add post-traumatic stress disorder to that list in 2015.

The Independent Wellness Center's initiative would seek to add insomnia, psoriasis, Tourette's syndrome, neuropathy and fibromyalgia to that list so long as the collect the requisite signatures prior to voting in 2018.

Additionally, the proposed proposition would change limitations on grow rights, decreasing the distance one must live from a dispensary from 25 to one mile to grow marijuana plants.

Arizona still has more medical marijuana patients than the national average with 1.86 percent of the population using the medication compared to 0.86 percent nationally, but increasing the number of qualifying conditions could increase that number.

The new initiative works simultaneously with the class action lawsuit brought against AZDHS to for the high price of obtaining medical marijuana certification.

The lawsuit alleges the AZDHS is sitting on $15 million in excess cash brought in from fees for medical marijuana certification, which currently cost between $75 and $200 depending on income and caregiver status. The lawsuit claims the per-patient cost to the state is around $15.

But if the new legislation passes, customers could see the added benefit of a decrease in the price of the medical marijuana they purchase.

Marijuana is generally cheaper in states with more patients and legal recreational marijuana, according to data compiled from a Forbes study in 2015 and patient numbers from the Marijuana Policy Project.

This goes against general economic wisdom in supply and demand, since an increased demand tends to increase market prices, but if Arizona enrolls more patients through lower costs for certifications and more qualifying conditions, data suggests the weed might be cheaper, too.

With 31 new dispensaries on the way, the supply might just be able to work itself out.

Finally, one hopeful state congressman plans to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana recreationally.

Rep. Mark Cardenas from Phoenix's west side hopes the support rallied by Prop 205 will carry into the state's legislature once the session begins next year. He introduced a similar bill last year that got shot down before even making it to a committee.

If Cardenas' new bill is anything like last years, users would be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and five plants in addition to the marijuana produced by those plants, so long as it remains in the vicinity of those plants.

The AZDHS would still be responsible for overseeing regulation of the industry, so at least it has that leg up on Prop 205.

More initiatives are sure to arise in the coming months as Arizonans continue to crave that kush, but in the meantime, medical just be the way to go.

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