The Mesa Republican lawmaker launched House Bill 2828 on January 10, stating the brand new division of marijuana regulation would take over all “authority, powers, duties, and responsibilities of the department of health services relating to the regulation of marijuana.”
The manner the invoice reads, Bowers is making an attempt to reshuffle pot regulation and take away it from the palms of the Arizona Department of Health Services. So far, it hasn’t even left the gate.
While it’s supposed to enter impact subsequent yr, the invoice has already missed the deadline for its first studying, stopping entry to being assigned a committee, a vital step within the prolonged course of for a invoice to turn out to be legislation.
Bowers has been vocal in his disapproval of the usage of leisure marijuana in Arizona. In 2016, he opposed Proposition 205, which did not legalize marijuana for adult-use in Arizona however in the end handed in 2020 underneath Prop 207, which Bowers additionally opposed. He additionally sponsored the House Concurrent Resolution 2045, which sought to scale back the efficiency of marijuana offered all through the state. The invoice directed DHS to review the connection between marijuana, schizophrenia, and violent conduct with cash gathered from the voter-approved medical marijuana fund. Bowers additionally sponsored and cosponsored payments so as to add marijuana product warning labels for the well being of pregnant girls or their unborn youngsters.
“Rusty Bowers has been a very hardhearted legislator when it comes to caring about the way that marijuana has improved the lives of people,” said congressional candidate Mikel Weisser, a former marijuana activist for the Arizona chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Arizona (NORML), according to azmarijuana.com, a website for Arizona marijuana information and news.
The last day for the House to consider any bill was February 18. And according to House Rule 9F “all House bills shall be considered by committees prior to the Saturday of the week in which the 60th day (March 10) from the beginning of each regular session falls.”
Because of its late introduction, special permission from the Rules Committee must be granted for HB 2828 to move forward.
It’s unclear at this point how the bill will proceed.
“One of the big problems, when someone comes up with a bill on their own, is the massive amount of unintended consequences when just one person comes up with an idea and says, ‘Let’s roll with it,’” explains Jon Udell, Political Director at NORML.
Udell, who opposes Bowers’ legislation, said he has no knowledge of a stakeholder meeting occurring to discuss the bill.
Few understand why the bill is on the table for discussion except for Bowers, who has not responded to requests for comment. But Udell and Arizona NORML Executive Director Mike Robinette believe it has to do with the perceived coziness between the Arizona Department of Health Services and the marijuana industry.
“I like that there are people out there that are concerned about the perceived chumminess between the department and the people that it is regulating,” Udell said.
Industry capture, better known as regulatory capture, occurs when a regulatory agency is dominated by special interest groups that it regulates rather than the interest of the public. It has historically been present in banking, with the most prominent example being the 2008 financial crisis, which resulted in massive government bailouts of U.S. banks that were “too big to fail.”
“I think it’s curious when you try to solve the supposed problem of industry capture by taking all the regulators and giving them a new title to a new department,” Udell stated. “So far it does nothing and it leads consumers into thinking that something serious has changed.”
The invoice additionally states that each one employees members at present employed by the DHS regarding the regulation of marijuana will likely be mechanically transferred into the brand new division of marijuana regulation.
“I don’t really know that you’re solving the issue of industry capture at all if you’re not bringing in new people,” Udell stated.
The two imagine that the best strategy to root out any doable regulatory seize is to scrub home.
Aside from the invoice’s intention, Robinette and Udell’s fundamental concern is the shortage of enter from these inside the trade, together with the Arizona Dispensaries Association, the Marijuana Industry Trade Association, and affected person advocacy teams like NORML. From Robinette’s perspective, the primary questions when introducing legislature ought to be, “How much stakeholder influence and how much stakeholder process occurs prior to a bill being dropped in the legislature?”
Udell agreed, saying, “I regret that they didn’t proceed through stakeholder meetings that don’t do anything to actually solve the problem that they say they care about.”
Demitri Downing, founding father of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association in Arizona (MITA AZ), stated it’s an pointless transfer on the a part of the legislature. “If it were me, I would leave it with DHS because they’ve done an excellent job,” said Demitri. “They’ve been unbelievably responsive and fair in my experience in the last 10 years.”
While some really feel the state well being division ought to be left untouched, others imagine the division has been too chummy with the trade. David Wisniewski, founding father of Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Political Action Committee, contends that product security is the place the trade might beef up its regulation.
“Historically, the Department of Health Services has been a little bit too kind to the industry by not enforcing certain safety standards that they should have been enforcing,” Wisniewski stated.
As of mid-January, DHS had inspected greater than 90 retail websites, in accordance with state paperwork launched to Phoenix New Times in a proper public information request. Inspections revealed issues starting from banal violations comparable to the form of gummies to extra severe well being considerations, such because the presence of salmonella in sure merchandise.
A closing supply of complexity within the invoice is the timeline. If created, the brand new division of marijuana regulation would take impact by the start of 2023, however is scheduled to terminate on July 1, 2030.
The reasoning behind making the brand new company non permanent stays unclear.
“If they really wanted to make this major transfer, wouldn’t they do it into perpetuity instead?” questions Robinette. “It really doesn’t do anything other than call the department a new name and then revert it back to the old name in about seven or eight years.”
The Arizona Department of Health Services was not capable of touch upon any pending or ongoing laws.