Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot in Arizona

Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot in Arizona

Arizona voters will have a chance to cast a ballot in support of recreational marijuana this coming November.

The initiative will hit the polls only four years after voters rejected a similar measure by a slim margin of 2.6 percent. However, a recent survey showed that over 62 percent of likely voters now support legalizing cannabis, suggesting a recent change of heart in the Grand Canyon State.

Proposition 207 

Supporters of the measure turned in a petition that had garnered over 420,000 raw signatures to Secretary of State Katie Hobb’s office in July. On August 10th, Hobb’s certified the signatures and added the initiative to the ballot under the name Prop. 207.

If approved, Prop. 207 would make it legal for adults in Arizona to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, so long as no more than five grams of that marijuana is in the form of concentrates. Arizonans would also be allowed to cultivate up to six cannabis plants in their homes. In homes with two or more adults, the allowance would go up to twelve plants total.

The measure requires the Department of Health Services to set forth the rules regarding retail sales by June 1, 2021. State and local sales taxes would be charged, as well as an additional 16 percent excise tax. The revenue from the taxes collected would be split between the state agencies responsible for overseeing the implementation of the law, fire departments, highways, community colleges, and a restorative justice fund.

Employers would still be allowed to ban marijuana in the workplace and prohibit potential applicants and current employees from using cannabis.

Prop. 207 will do more than simply legalize cannabis in Arizona. There are several provisions written to help those who have been impacted by the harsh realities of prohibition, including establishing a social equity program designed to issue licenses to members of communities that have been historically disproportionately targeted by cannabis laws. It would also allow Arizonans who have been previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes to petition for the expungement of their records. 

Support for Proposition 207

Smart and Safe Arizona, where former House representative Chad Campbell (D-24) is a chairperson of the campaign committee, spearheads the initiative’s campaign.

“As the name says, smart and safe. It’s put together in a responsible way to sell this product to adults only, and it will generate revenue, much-needed revenue, for the state which is a win for everybody,” Campbell told Fox10 Phoenix. He estimates that legal cannabis will bring around $300 million in revenue a year.

Political consultant Stacy Pearson told KTVK, “[Prop. 207] does the right thing by providing an option for folks who were previously convicted of low-level marijuana charges to have their criminal records sealed, so they have fair access to jobs and housing. It frees up police to focus on real crime and hard drugs and unclogs the justice system, which is currently backlogged with minor offenses.”

Opposition to Proposition 207 

Robert Leger, a spokesperson for Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, has concerns about what kind of signal legalization could send to young people.

“I think there’s a lot here to worry about. If you have a vote that says it’s OK to use it, I think those kids who might be on the fence might are more likely to say ‘The voters say it’s a good thing [sic] to have, it can’t be bad for us.’ I think it makes it more legitimate in the eyes of a teenager.” Leger said to KTVK

Contrary to what Leger believes, studies have shown that legal cannabis markets have not caused increased marijuana use by minors.

61 Tons of Medical Marijuana Consumed in Arizona Last Year

61 Tons of Medical Marijuana Consumed in Arizona Last Year

The Arizona medical marijuana program reached a record breaking high in 2018 with patients consuming nearly 61 tons of cannabis products, according to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program Report released by the state Department of Health Services on Monday, January 14. That amount is equivalent to almost 122,000 pounds, or about nine African Bush Elephants.

Including all types of products for all methods of consumption, the report only separates them into three main categories — marijuana, marijuana edibles, and marijuana other. The “marijuana” category covers flower. “Marijuana edibles” describes anything ingestible like food or beverages and tinctures, and “marijuana other” describes vape cartridges, topicals and concentrates.

Sales Breakdown

The “marijuana” category in the report reveals that flower was the most popular product sold in the Copper State last year with 111,830.93 pounds being consumed by registered patients. “Marijuana edibles” account for 4,983.35 pounds, and 5,101.50 pounds were considered “marijuana other.”

Voters in Arizona approved the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) in 2010, taking rank as the 14th state to enact the legalization of medical cannabis. AMMA went into effect on April 14, 2011, and the program has grown like a weed in the nearly eight years it has been running. For example, just less than 2.5 tons of marijuana edibles were sold in 2018 alone, which is the same amount as all of the medical cannabis products combined that were consumed by patients in the entire year of 2012.

Program Growth

The number of registered medical marijuana patients has also grown exponentially since 2012 when there were only approximately 40,000 patients. In 2018, there were 189,017 registered patients in the state. Only 2,613 registered patients and caregivers are approved to cultivate at home, which explains the huge demand for store bought products.

Patient Demographics

The largest age groups for patients in Arizona were 18 to 30 years, accounting for 51,637 people, and 31 to 40 years with 40,959 people. Only 202 registered patients were younger than 18, and 1,858 card holders were 81 or older. 118,767 patients were male, and 79,250 were female.

FDA Rejects Anti-Legalization Pharma Co’s Cannabis Drug Request

FDA Rejects Anti-Legalization Pharma Co’s Cannabis Drug Request

The same drug company that donated $500,000 to a campaign to defeat marijuana legalization in its home state of Arizona in 2016 is now actively fighting to deter competition against its own synthetic THC product. Efforts to extend its exclusive right to manufacture the drug have resulted in a back-and-forth with a federal agency that ultimately resulted in the pharma firm’s request being summarily rejected.

Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that came under fire over its anti-legalization election spending, is also known for producing potent opioids and a drug called Syndros, a synthesized THC product containing dronabinol that’s similar to Marinol, except that it’s a liquid preparation rather than a pill.

To many advocates, the company’s anti-legalization spending reeked of conflicts of interest. Was Insys worried that legal weed in Arizona represented a threat to its bottom line? The company essentially admitted as much in 2007, writing in a disclosure statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that “the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected” if marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids were legalized.

Now, according to publicly available documents, Insys is engaging in another type of battle. It wants extended exclusivity over its oral dronabinol product. And in October 2017, the company asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to decline applications from competitors seeking to produce generic versions of Syndros.

Insys has already sued two such drug companies, Par Pharmaceuticals and Alkem Laboratories, after learning that they had submitted Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDA)—the first step in the process of gaining approval for generic versions of existing drugs—which “triggered a 30-month stay” in one case, Insys senior vice president of regulatory affairs Stephen Sherman noted in a October 2017 citizen petition to the FDA.

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In light of disclosures that drugmakers were submitting FDA applications to develop generic versions that referenced Syndros, which might eventually provide patients with cheaper alternatives, Insys appealed to the FDA.

Its request was in two-parts: 1) It asked the FDA to decline to “receive or approve” any ANDA applications that didn’t establish “in vivo bioequivalence” to its drug, and 2) that any ANDA applications for its drug “include fed and fasted state bioequivalence studies.”

In essence, Insys argued that its drug was too complex to be replicated by generic competitors that didn’t first conduct extensive testing demonstrating its biochemical likeness.

In a letter made public earlier this month, the FDA flatly denied the company’s petition. The government agency disputed the claims Insys included in its letter and clarified how the ANDA approval process works

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Robin Feldman, professor of law and director of the Institute for Innovation Law at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, literally wrote the book on all the different ways that mainstream pharmaceutical companies try to subvert generic competition.

She told Marijuana Moment that the bioequivalence testing Insys requested was already required in any ANDA application, so it was kind of like “petitioning the FDA to say ‘we insist that you do what it is that we all know you’re going to do.’ And with that, you get five months of delay.” In a phone interview, Feldman couldn’t help but laugh as she was read another section of the drug company’s citizen petition. That section says:

“Insys notes that it is currently awaiting an FDA exclusivity determination with respect to SYNDROS and expects to receive three years of exclusivity based on the submission of new clinical studies essential to approval.”

“Companies pile these exclusivities on one after another to keep generic competitors off the market as long as possible,” Feldman said. “So the reason I laughed is what you are seeing is a multipronged effort by the brand company to stave off generic entry as long as possible.”

“They’re using a variety of techniques: citizen petition, additional regulatory exclusivity, and adding these on. Each delay may be of limited time, but they may be extremely valuable—and together, they can add up to significant costs to the consumer,” she said.

In her book and published studies, Feldman reported that approximately 80 percent of citizen petitions, like the one submitted by Insys, were denied by the FDA. Submitting a citizen petition is often a delay tactic for drug companies hoping to maintain exclusivity over their brands, because “[d]elaying generic competition for as little as six months can be worth half a billion dollars in sales for a blockbuster drug,” she wrote in an op-ed for STAT.

False or misleading citizen petitions from drugmakers are so common, in fact, that Feldman created a beta “alert system” for users to submit and detect suspect petitions. When she ran Insys’s October 2017 petition through the system, it “came back with red flags,” she said.

Insys Therapeutics did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. This story will be updated if the company sends comment.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment here:

FDA Rejects Anti-Legalization Pharma Co’s Cannabis Drug Request

 

5 States With Exceedingly Harsh Marijuana Laws

5 States With Exceedingly Harsh Marijuana Laws

In recent years, medical marijuana has made a spectacularly controversial entrance into our daily narrative. U.S. states are challenging a plethora of outdated laws concerning the substance’s medicinal use, and the results have sparked a national debate on the legalization of recreational cannabis use, sale, and regulation. There are some states, however, that still treat marijuana like cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, despite research dispelling common misconceptions about the use of cannabis and its application to modern medicine. Here are 5 of the worst states to be caught using or possessing marijuana:

Arizona

states-with-exceedingly-harsh-marijuana-laws

Getting caught with any amount of marijuana in Arizona will result in a felony charge, an almost impossibly hardened sentence in the opinions of many on both sides of the law. Though Arizona legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2010, recreational use is widely admonished and carries life-changing ramifications. Under the state’s laws, possession of less than two pounds will result in a Class 6 felony charge, over $100,000 in fines, and at least six months in jail; regardless of how little one possesses, this is the lowest sentence, and possession with intent to sell or cultivation both spell life behind bars. Even with medical marijuana legalized, medical users are still fighting for their right to have access to (and use) this treatment, and places like universities are being threatened with loss of federal funding if marijuana is permitted on-campus.

Florida

states-with-exceedingly-harsh-marijuana-laws

Another medically legal state (with updates to the law being added as recently as 2016), Florida has stiff penalties for recreational users. Any amount under 20 grams will garner up to a year in jail, a fine, and is tagged as a first-degree misdemeanor; those with more than 20 grams face up to five years. Charges in this state may not be as serious as they are in others, but the laws surrounding cannabis are more specialized and include harsher penalties for synthetic marijuana, as well as “marijuana addiction treatment” for those incarcerated. Consequently, an individual convicted in this state may have their driver’s license revoked, even if the offense occurred without a vehicle present or involved. Florida state laws on marijuana use are constantly changing, and lawmakers are often pushing for harsher sentences.

South Dakota

states-with-exceedingly-harsh-marijuana-laws

With possession of just 2 ounces being identified as a Class 1 misdemeanor under South Dakota law, “no person may knowingly possess marijuana” in any amount, and for no reason (medicinal or otherwise). Of the 13 states that have decriminalized recreational use of marijuana and the 46 with medical marijuana laws in place, South Dakota is one of the few left in total defiance. Even users from other states will be charged in the same way as anyone in possession of marijuana in this state, receiving penalties like a 90-day suspension of a person’s license if the substance is found in their vehicle. One report from Pierre, North Dakota reveals a cannabis user being forcibly catheterized after refusing to provide a urine sample to police, and recounts the experience as “degrading” and a violation of his rights.

Wisconsin

states-with-exceedingly-harsh-marijuana-laws

Another recent addition to the list of states that allow medical cannabis use, Wisconsin’s laws for possession are relatively harsh; just a small amount is considered a Class 1 felony and will result in jail time and a hefty fine. Though many cities in Wisconsin are battling against state law (and 9 of the 10 major cities in the state have decriminalized possession of small amounts), some municipalities adhere strictly to state-appointed guidelines, which levy substantial charges against users. Medical marijuana users in the state are under no distinct advantage, as the statute renders extremely specific. Even the state’s Native American tribes are taking a stand against these strict laws, with the Menominee tribe voting to legalize both types of use on their reservations in 2015.

Indiana

states-with-exceedingly-harsh-marijuana-laws

This state has staunchly resisted the uprising of medical marijuana for years, and outlaws all uses and forms of cannabis to anyone, even those legal in other states. An individual convicted of possessing less than 30 grams will serve jail time and be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, while anything over 30 grams will be tagged as a Class D felony, leaving Indiana with the award for the harshest laws against cannabis users. Those seeking respite in legal states will be prosecuted as well, since Indiana law states that a person caught with trace amounts of marijuana in their systems while driving will be subject to the same laws that apply to possession, even if no actual marijuana is present. In addition to these worrying statutes, research shows that African-Americans are three times as likely to be targeted and arrested for cannabis use.

Arizona Will Vote to Legalize Marijuana This November

Arizona Will Vote to Legalize Marijuana This November

After collecting enough signatures to qualify for this November’s vote, Arizona will have a chance to become one of America’s next legal marijuana states.

Spearheaded by the Marijuana Policy Project, the state’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced that it has garnered over 200,000 signatures from Arizona citizens supporting the effort. The proposal needed just 150,642 legitimate signatures from registered Arizona voters and easily surpassed that benchmark.

As long as there’s not over 50,000 fake signatures on that list, that means Arizona’s voters will decide the state’s legalization fate come this November’s vote. Should those voters say yes, Arizona’s policy would closely mirror Colorado’s by allowing any adult 21 and up to purchase certain amounts of legal marijuana and includes a 15% tax on all sales. As in Colorado, those tax dollars would go directly towards the Arizona school system thus proving a direct benefit to society.

That vote’s outcome looks like a promising one for cannabis, but is by no means a surefire victory. A recent poll (with a very small sample size) showed support for legalization in Arizona at just 53% which would barely pass the Campaign to Regulate Like Marijuana Like Alcohol. That number seems low, so hopefully, come election day, that polling number will be easily eclipsed and Arizona can smell out a victory. Arizona’s neighbor,

Nevada, will also get to vote on legalization this fall while California, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island all have strong chances to make the ballot. Vermont could beat them all to the punch by legalizing by way of legislation, not a vote.

Arizona medical marijuana program, in place since 2011, should not be effected by legalization. Thanks to this thriving medical market, Arizona actually has the potential to be a vast legal market: sales in Arizona surged from $35 million in 2013 to $155 million in 2014 in the nation’s fasted growing marijuana market.

Bernie Canter

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