New Rules

A judge has intervened, so the state has changed some of its MMJ edicts

It might surprise you to know that despite the hard-right leanings of Arizona's state political power structure, there are actually forces for freedom at work in the Red Valley that is our state capitol, even where cannabis is concerned.

Will Humble, director of the state Department of Health Services, came out against the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act when it was proposed, but the esteemed Mr. Humble has mostly upheld our end of the bargain and worked fairly diligently to make it happen since it became law against his will.

Now Mr. Humble is hard at work adjusting and tinkering with and apparently improving the AMMA rules, figuring out nuances of law that mostly affect dispensary operators but which could also benefit you and me directly. The changes are afoot because of a lawsuit, of course, because this is Arizona goddammit, and if our state government wants or doesn't want something, we are going to sue you, or you will have to sue us, and if you don't like it we will wag our finger in your goddamn face on the tarmac at the airport.

Anyway, a judge recently ruled that the timeline for dispensary owners to get approval to operate was unfair, because of delays forced by Chief Finger-Wagger Jan, so the state had to rewrite those rules. From there, Humble decided to nip and tuck a couple other rules. To wit:

• 25 mile rule: Roughly none of Arizona's 42k or so patients can grow their own right now, because you have to live outside 25 miles from a dispensary. As it stands, that's measured as the crow flies, but everyone knows cannabis patients can't fly, so the state is changing it to road miles. Cascabel, a tiny bastion of progressive might and hippie ethos on the east side of Redington Pass, comes to mind. Unincorporated Cascabel stretches a few miles along the San Pedro River between San Manuel and Benson. It's about 30 miles from either community, but a crow could fly less than 25 miles to get there from Tucson's East Side. Under new rules, Cascabellions would seemingly be allowed to grow, as many of them surely would love to do.

Hopes and dreams of repealing the 25-mile law completely still abound, but thus far have gained little traction.

• Extracts and resins: The state is also struggling with differences between the criminal code and the AMMA, each of which defines marijuana a different way. The criminal code basically forbids anything made from or extracted from or containing cannabis. Period. The AMMA allows any mixture or preparation of marijuana.

The argument is mostly over how edibles and other preparations — such as tinctures and oils for vaporizers — are made. It's a bit of a semantic argument, but ultimately what it means is that my eCig, which seems like a pretty healthy and convenient way for me to get meds into my system, is useless, because the oil for it is unavailable. The criminal interpretation has dispensaries scared to sell the stuff, which I will buy the minute it becomes available.

Edibles made from cannabis butter appear to be escaping state attention, as virtually every dispensary is selling them.

• Other and Sundry Changes: Other rule changes will concern dispensary operators, such as lifting the lifetime ban on operators who get approval but don't open on time. This seems like an overly punitive rule. Good riddance. Other changes would affect how dispensary operator renewals happen.

Humble expects some decisions on these changes and advice on the nuances of law by the end of October, though that will be followed by public hearings and "oral proceedings," he said recently on his blog.

Let's hope the rule changes don't end up giving patients any anal proceedings.

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