Marijuana

The Top 10 Arizona Marijuana News Stories in 2019

It was the best of times, and for most Arizona patients, 2019 probably wasn't the worst of times, either.
It was the best of times, and for most Arizona patients, 2019 probably wasn't the worst of times, either. WildOne via Pixabay.com
Marijuana, a.k.a. cannabis, has never been a bigger news story in Arizona than it is these days. The state continued to set records with its burly medical marijuana program now, nearly a decade after voters approved it. The next year is bound to be even bigger. But the year also included some high anxiety. Here's a look back at the year in pot:


Cannabis Concentrates for Medical Use Green-Lighted by Arizona Supreme Court

click to enlarge ALEJANDRO FORERO CUERVO VIA FLICKR
Alejandro Forero Cuervo via Flickr
This was the story that medical marijuana patients, and indeed, the whole state industry, had been waiting for. Following a declaration in June 2018 by the state Court of Appeals that concentrates including popular products like oil for vape pens, shatter, and most edible cannabis, were illegal, in late May the state Supreme Court settled the issue in a 7-0 vote. Now, it's all good again.


The Trouble With (Some) Vapes

click to enlarge Seventeen people in Arizona had been hospitalized with vaping-related illnesses as of November 2019. - SARAHJOHNSON1 VIA PIXABAY
Seventeen people in Arizona had been hospitalized with vaping-related illnesses as of November 2019.
One of the biggest stories of the year in cannabis and nicotine vaping was the disturbing trend of severe lung impairment by hundreds of vape users. More than 2,500 people were hospitalized over the year after a widely publicized outbreak of vaping-related illnesses in June, including nearly 20 in Arizona. More than 50 people died nationwide. One culprit was found: Vitamin E, which may be good for your skin, but when heated and inhaled can act like a WWI battlefield gas on the lungs. Yet even as the number of patients dwindled by year's end, scientists still don't know the cause of all the cases.


Possible Rec Law in 2020: The Launch of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act

click to enlarge Demitri Downing, Steve White, and Stacy Pearson discussed the planned Arizona marijuana legalization initiative for the 2020 ballot at a March 2019 meeting of the Marijuana Trade Industry Association. - RAY STERN
Demitri Downing, Steve White, and Stacy Pearson discussed the planned Arizona marijuana legalization initiative for the 2020 ballot at a March 2019 meeting of the Marijuana Trade Industry Association.
Ray Stern
It's now very likely that an adult-use marijuana law will be on the Arizona ballot in November 2020. The dispensary industry launched in March what is now known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. If its backers collect enough signatures and voters approve it, Arizonans 21 and over could possess up to one ounce of marijuana, of which five grams could be concentrates, and adults could grow up to six plants in their homes.
Read about the details here. How are you going to vote?


A Group of Industry Insiders Launch Their Own Initiative

click to enlarge Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce board member Mason Cave explains the group's draft plan for legalization at a public meeting on November 13. - ALI SWENSON
Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce board member Mason Cave explains the group's draft plan for legalization at a public meeting on November 13.
Ali Swenson
Soon after details of the rec initiative were revealed, a group consisting of growers, manufacturers, dispensary owners, bankers, doctors, and others formed their own group, with their own ideas about the best way to make legalization happen. The group will try to convince lawmakers to see things their way. May the best bill win.


Phoenix Medical Marijuana Patient Jailed for Vape Pen

click to enlarge Noah Blackwell and his wife, Marisol Blackwell. - COURTESY OF NOAH BLACKWELL
Noah Blackwell and his wife, Marisol Blackwell.
Courtesy of Noah Blackwell
Before the above-mentioned state Supreme Court victory on concentrates, some weird shit was going on. One of those foibles included the arrest and jailing of a Phoenix-area medical marijuana patient for a vape pen. A state trooper took Noah Blackwell to jail for the allegedly illegal vape pen and for a legal gun he had in the car, since carrying a gun and illegal drugs is, well, illegal. But it turned out neither was illegal for Blackwell, and he avoided prosecution.


SB 1494 Part One: Dealing With Cards

click to enlarge ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES
Arizona Department of Health Services
Governor Doug Ducey made life easier, and better, for marijuana patients in 2019 by signing SB 1494, a law that had multiple effects. Two of its features dealt with patient cards. The first extended the cards' validity from one to two years, effectively halving their cost. The second made cards digital, a process that went online in December and was intended to make things easier for everyone. If you don't have a smartphone, where most digital cards will be stored, the state advises patients to print out the cards and keep one in a wallet or glove box.


SB 1494 - Testing, Testing

click to enlarge Samples to be tested at Delta Verde Laboratory in Phoenix. - RAY STERN
Samples to be tested at Delta Verde Laboratory in Phoenix.
Ray Stern
The primary feature of SB 1494 was to set up a state-overseen program to test all medical marijuana products for contaminants like mold, residual pesticides, and heavy metals. A council of experts recently finalized their recommendations on the program to the state. Testing must begin by November 2020.

Arizona Medical Users Can Now Purchase Legally in Hawaii and New Mexico

click to enlarge AZ MMJ patients no longer have to suffer cannabis deprivation while in Hawaii. - MAXPIXEL
AZ MMJ patients no longer have to suffer cannabis deprivation while in Hawaii.
Arizona patients should have no problem finding medicine in California, Colorado, or Nevada, or any other state with a recreational cannabis law. But what can patients do if fate takes them to the island paradise of Hawaii? They can apply for a temporary card, that's what. And if they head east to New Mexico, the option's even better as of 2019: Arizona patients can legally enroll in New Mexico's program.


The Anti-TASC Lawsuit Goes On

click to enlarge The TASC office on Seventh Street. - MEG O'CONNOR
The TASC office on Seventh Street.
Meg O'Connor
Impoverished marijuana offenders continue to be put through the wringer in Maricopa County's expensive TASC program. But help could be on the way in the form of a lawsuit still wending its way through court that might terminate the drug-treatment option, which treats poor people to a longer trip just because they're poor.


Kari Lake's Pot-Themed F-Bomb

Kari Lake - KSAZ-TV
Kari Lake
KSAZ-TV
"Fuck them. They're 20-year-old dopes," said Fox 10 News anchor Kari Lake about Phoenix New Times last summer — while streaming live video. "That's a rag for selling marijuana ads."

If you read one marijuana story last year, it was probably this one. It wasn't actually about marijuana, but it was one of New Times' most-viewed stories in 2019.
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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.
Contact: Ray Stern