Our View: Legislature blows it by rejecting marijuana safety laws

February 22, 2019

Arizona may or may not ever approve a recreational marijuana law but the regional and national trend toward legalization is clear. Arizona should use its existing medical marijuana program to get its arms around some health and consumer issues associated with weed.

It isn’t doing so. Twice in the last week, state legislators have beat back bills relating to the testing of medical marijuana for pesticide and mold and allowing inspections of dispensaries for mold and bacteria during business hours.

State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, the conservative Lake Havasu City Republican who is the unlikely go-to guy for marijuana and hemp bills, blames Democrats for defeating the safety and health measures.

Because the bills modify a voter-approved law, it takes a super majority of legislative votes to modify the existing law. Unfortunately, this includes safety considerations.

Testing for introduced toxins became a big deal in California after recreational marijuana was approved. The first round of tests showed a high amount of impurities. Subsequent testing was better. Arizona should take a cue, understanding that testing programs take a long time to roll out.

Opponents of the inspection bill cite concerns about privacy intrusions on designated caregivers.

Others opposed to marijuana in general may just figure users deserve whatever poisons they get.

A better view is that Arizona has collected tens of millions of dollars from those enrolled in the medical marijuana program and has an obligation to assure a state-run program meets quality standards.

At the least, testing could help assure that weed that failed testing in other states isn’t dumped on the Arizona market.

With marijuana, there’s no such thing as USDA-certified organic product because the federal government doesn’t test products it deems illegal. That leaves it to the states.

Borrelli’s bill last year allowing hemp as an agricultural product gave Arizona a fast start on a crop that the federal government has since declared legal. Ultimately, this gives the state an economic advantage. Arizona can take similar advantage of marijuana trends by using its medical marijuana program to sort out various regulatory issues. Safety and health are tops on that list and we hope the Legislature will reconsider both of these rejected bills.

— Today’s News-Herald