Arizona's Week in Weed: NORML Candidate for Congress Mikel Weisser, VA Blocks Sue Sisley Lecture

From the tons sold in legal medical-marijuana dispensaries to the tons imported each year from Mexico, Arizona is a place that knows its cannabis. Here's a roundup of last week's biggest pot news stories that affect the Grand Canyon State...

Pro-Cannabis, Left-Wing Candidates File to Run for Office in Arizona
Arizona pro-cannabis activist Mikel Weisser and other progressive candidates kicked off a "Red District Resistance" on Friday at the state elections office.

Weisser (who's running for Congress), his wife, Beth Weisser (running for the Arizona House of Representatives), and several other candidates turned in their qualifying signatures at the Arizona Secretary of State's Office in an event pre-planned for the media. A few news outlets showed up, including a team with Spanish Television, Spain's national TV network.

Mikel Weisser is the state director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and one of the founders of the Safer Arizona political action committee, a group that tried unsuccessfully to legalize marijuana in 2014.

"All over the state, we’re working to hold Republicans accountable for the damage they’ve caused to education, to secular government, and to the economy," Weisser said in a prepared statement.

A state delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Weisser will be the only Democrat running against Republican Paul Gosar in November's general election for Congressional District Four, a staunchly conservative slice of rural Arizona that includes Payson, Kingman, and Prescott. The former teacher ran unsuccessfully for the office in 2012 and 2014; the losses were expected given the district's GOP advantage. What's important to the Weissers is that they're spreading the message of progressive ideas and creating political momentum.

"I'm hoping to build something that outlasts my candidacy," Weisser says.

He says helping to repair Arizona's downtrodden education system is his primary issue, but ending cannabis prohibition continues to be a driving force in his life. He may be the only congressional candidate who admits to "dabbing" cannabis concentrates. He has drawn some controversy within the cannabis community, as well: Last year, Weisser publicly sided with the Marijuana Policy Project against Safer Arizona's leadership, who, he claimed, did not "honor their commitments" to support the MPP's 2016 ballot initiative, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona.

Fittingly, the Weissers live in the tiny northwest Arizona town of So-Hi.

The "Resistance" also includes Democratic candidates Scott Prior (state house in LD-16), his wife, Cara Prior (state senate in LD-16), Iisha Graves (state house in LD-13), and Talia Fuentes, a Democratic candidate for Congressional District 5.

"This generation is more secular than previous generations, and they’re not afraid to look at the benefits of a more democratic economy," Scott Prior said.

Dr. Sue Sisley Dissed Again — But VA's Tune Likely to Change
The Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System blocked cannabis-testing pioneer Dr. Sue Sisley from giving a presentation last week on an upcoming study she's helping to lead, KTAR News Radio (KTAR-FM) reported.

"The notion that the Phoenix VA hospital refuses to allow that information to be shared with their medical staff is really shameful," Sisley told the station.

This isn't the first time Sisley has had a door slammed in her face because of her interest in the science of cannabis. As New Times recounted in September 2014, Sisley was fired from a job at the University of Arizona in apparent retribution for her off-time, pro-pot political activity. 

Sisley is part of a team of researchers preparing to conduct a high-profile study of cannabis on veterans who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The study is being conducted by the California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which recently received approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

As New Times reported last week, a bill that would lift a federal proscription against VA doctors discussing cannabis with patients now awaits President Obama's signature.

Women Grow Hosts Talk on Obtaining New Dispensary Licenses
You can learn how to obtain a dispensary license and help the nationally known pro-cannabis group Women Grow at an event open to the public this Thursday, June 2.

At the group's monthly meeting in Scottsdale, chapter chairwoman Sara Gullickson of Dispensary Permits and local cannabis-industry attorney Ryan Hurley will discuss Arizona's plan to issue 30 new dispensary licenses this year. Hurley advises and advocates for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, a ballot initiative supported by the national Marijuana Policy Project and local dispensaries.

The talk takes place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Rose Law Group offices, 7144 East Stetson Drive in Scottsdale. Admission is $30 in advance, $35 at the door.

Clarification: Weisser was a founding member of the Safer Arizona PAC in 2013, but the grassroots group with that name was founded earlier by Dave Wisniewski. 
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.