Mixed Messages

The ADA considers concentrates a legislative priority, but some may have missed the memo


It's my favorite time of year and yours as well, folks: The Arizona Legislature is in session.

Republican Rep. Tony Rivero introduced the first piece of cannabis legislation that would remove the definition of cannabis from state statutes.

HB 2149 is aimed at the criminal case headed to the Arizona Supreme Court in which Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk prosecuted a cannabis patient for possession of concentrates.

The Court of Appeals upheld Polk's conviction, centered on differing legal definitions of "cannabis" and "marijuana."

The proposed law would fix the problem by standardizing references to cannabis in the legal code rather than amending the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

The bill doesn't only help cannabis patients, said Moe Asnani, president of Downtown Dispensary, whose lobbyist, Gibson McKay, helped draft the bill. It also stands to untangle legal strings around the newly legalized hemp industry.

Asnani, chair of the Arizona Dispensaries Association legal committee, said the ADA board voted unanimously to "explore" legislative fixes to the definition of cannabis in the state statutes on Dec. 19.

ADA President Steve White said he's glad legislators understand the issue and is grateful for Rivero's support on the issue. The ADA itself remains neutral on the bill pending a review by its lawyers.

But apparently not everyone in the ADA was on the same page. Kevin DeMenna, a lobbyist for the ADA, told the Arizona Capitol Times, "This is not something the ADA asked for."

Asnani said DeMenna's statement does not represent the stance of the ADA since the board never formally adopted such a position.

"Kevin was misquoted in the Capitol Times," White said. "We as an organization have decided that, this year, it is our highest legislative priority to address the concentrates issue. The only question is how."

White said DeMenna followed up with the Capitol Times, but the original quote remains online as of Tuesday.

This isn't the first time DeMenna, who did not respond to a request for comment, has taken a contrary stance on industry-supported legislation. Last year, a meeting between DeMenna, Gov. Doug Ducey, and other key members of the ADA allegedly killed a testing bill with a contentious path through both chambers.

Alex Lane, chair of the ADA legal committee, said he personally supports the bill and appreciates Rivero's support of the cannabis industry. He expects other criminal justice organizations to support the bill in addition to support voiced by the American Civil Liberties Union.

For Rivero's part, his interest isn't in supporting cannabis, but supporting criminal justice reform.

"As a citizen and a representative, I can no longer allow an old definition that contradicts what the voters wanted," he told the Capitol Times, referring to the 2010 AMMA.

Tucson Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley has also sponsored two bills to address cannabis card fees.

HB2412 would extend the duration of patient registration by one year, doubling the amount of time for which a card is valid, effectively halving registration costs the patients. HB2435 would lower the application fee for patients from $150 to $50.

Both bills have several co-sponsors but have an uphill battle to achieve the three-quarters votes necessary in legislature to amend a voter-approved law.