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Arizona’s medical marijuana testing bill dies a quiet death at the hands of House Democrats

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Arizona's SB1420 rode a rollercoaster of support and opposition this year, dodging skeptical Republicans, losing a clause to reduce card fees and finally fading as Democrats rejected the bill, causing it to fall short of the three-quarters vote needed to amend the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

At face value, the whole situation seems to have parties confused about how marijuana fits into larger platforms. In any other industry, Democrats would clamor for regulation and Republicans would fight for the free market.

Of course, the only thing Republicans want to regulate is marijuana. Hence Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) initially sponsoring the bill to protect consumer safety. However, many industry professionals supported the bill as well, fearing unsafe products making their way into the hands and lungs of patients.

If it were up to the industry, testing probably would be mandated by state law. But those who gave up support for the bill once it lost provisions to lower patient card costs question the real dangers of mold and pesticides in marijuana.

Demitri Downing, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association, said he'd never heard of a case of someone getting sick from moldy marijuana. Certainly, after decades of use without regulation, moldy marijuana has never really concerned recreational users, whether they knew about it or not.

While only one or two dispensaries have ever been caught selling moldy marijuana in Arizona, and except for organic food junkies who ensure dispensaries don't use pesticides less they lose their business, dishonesty in lab testing provides perhaps a more salient concern among dispensaries.

Some dispensaries will use certain types of testing to make their product seem more potent than it really is.

There are two main types of testing for marijuana: high pressure liquid chromatography and gas chromatography. Dispensaries may use either method to examine or market their strains, but the two show very different results.

Gas chromatography uses heat to combust the product and read the results, which will accurately reflect the amounts of THC you get from burning bud. HPLC separates the chemicals with a liquid solvent, conserving the amounts of each and providing a much more precise measurement.

Some dispensaries will exclusively use HPLC to test their products and show higher concentrations of THC or CBD, which others may see as dubious because it overstates what patients get when they burn flower.

Though the stakes aren't as high for reporting accurate potency as opposed to mold contamination, it may be more prevalent.

What really did SB1420 in, though, was the elimination of lower card costs for patients. Downing said he wouldn't support the bill without something to offset the costs for patients.

The legislature will get a chance to vote on testing again next year as both MITA and the Arizona Dispensaries Association plan on introducing comprehensive bills to address issues in the state's medical marijuana program, ranging from labeling requirements to card costs to dispensary agent mobility.

For the moment, if you're really worried about what's in your marijuana, ask your dispensary for testing reports. If you're still skeptical, some testing labs offer discounts (or waive costs entirely) for patients to independently verify that they're getting the what they paid for.

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