Medical pot testing bill fails to pass before end of session

Medical cannabis is cloned, grown, and then harvested in Camp Verde by Harvest, Inc., Camp Verde’s most recent cultivation facility. (Photos by Bill Helm)

Medical cannabis is cloned, grown, and then harvested in Camp Verde by Harvest, Inc., Camp Verde’s most recent cultivation facility. (Photos by Bill Helm)

PHOENIX -- Arizona’s more than 162,000 medical marijuana users are not going to get any state protection from being sold drugs that are tainted with pesticides or mold, at least not for the time being.

SB 1420, which would have required the Department of Agriculture to set up a testing scheme, fell short of the necessary votes Thursday for approval. It is not expected to resurface this session.

That, said Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, is disappointing.

“I’m not a fan of medical marijuana,’’ he said. “However, I am a fan of making sure if somebody’s going to buy a product that the product itself is safe to use, that it’s not going to harm their health.’’

Central to the issue is that marijuana is subject to neither federal nor state rules as to things like purity.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said that means it is perfectly legal for Arizona marijuana cultivators to use fungicides like Eagle 20 even though it is banned under federal law for use on tobacco.

“It is a severe carcinogen,’’ he said.

It’s not just fungicides that are a problem. Rep. Jay Lawrence said there’s also the question of pesticides.

“There are hundreds of chemicals that are carcinogens that are in marijuana,’’ he said, starting to read off a list.

“It’s an ugly list,’’ Lawrence told colleagues. “This is pathetic.’’

Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, said he understands -- and even supports -- the need for testing.

“We are one of the few states that have medical marijuana and don’t test it,’’ he said. “The problem is that this bill doesn’t quite get it right.’’

Friese said he believes the legislation doesn’t adequately deal with how and where the testing is done as well as what chemicals the tests are designed to find. And he said there’s nothing in the measure to spell out whether certain chemicals are acceptable at certain levels.

His preference is to work on the legislation and bring it back next year, insisting that another year of delay won’t make much of a difference.

Finchem disagreed. He said many of these details can be worked out in rules adopted by the state Department of Health Services.

And Finchem said that he would prefer to err on the side of caution and give the go-ahead to testing while any problems are ironed out.

“Even if we don’t quite get the measurement right, I would a lot sooner see a product sitting on a shelf and not for sale that could damage somebody’s public health,’’ he said.


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