According to Arizona’s new medical marijuana law, testing will be required on all cannabis products from Nov. 1, 2020. Testing will be done for potency, heavy metals, residual solvents, pesticides, and microbes. The new law aligns Arizona with dozens of other states that have effected and safety requirements in their marijuana markets.
This law came in place early in June after Governor Ducey signed several bills, including Senate Bill 1404 which requires cannabis dispensaries to test their products for harmful toxins.
In previous legislative sessions, lawmakers had fruitlessly attempted to implement marijuana testing requirements until this year when both chambers unanimously passed the legislation. The bill establishes a committee with twelve industry representatives to be appointed by the DHS director to help in coming up with rules that outline cannabis testing standards and protocols. This committee will be comprised of marijuana dispensary owners, cultivators, a cannabis trade group, a cannabis testing association, a healthcare provider, a designated caregiver and one person from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Talking to Cannabis Business Times, Demitri Downing, the Executive Director of MITA AZ (Marijuana Industry Trade Association of Arizona), said that he sees this as an intelligent and well-thought-through approach that will create room for scientists. This means that the state can add the persons they chose to have in the team.
Nickel Weisser, Arizona NORML executive director, told the Business Times that this was their third year of trying to make a cannabis testing bill pass and felt that it was a big achievement. This time, they had to get all the 15 different stakeholders on board to avoid having the bill fail like it did last year on the final vote.
Political director at Marijuana Policy Project, Joe Moffat, said that patients deserve knowing what’s in the products they consume, and noted that the goal of this program is to help people with deliberating medical conditions without imposing side effects.
While the state is yet to establish a licensing regime for marijuana testing labs, Weisser said that the program is being worked on under the new law.
According to Weisser, Cannabis businesses in Arizona are required to do internal testing and get ahead of potential problems. This is because although unwanted things like mold spores are ubiquitous in America, they cannot develop if sanitary conditions are established. Hence, by businesses keeping track of their production facilities and conducting internal testing, better results will be achieved.
Nevertheless, some Arizona license holders are expected to be reactive since their current practices and mistakes are inherent to any industry looking to polish itself up and grow in the right direction.
At the same time, some industry players have no problem with the testing idea. For example, Huxton and Montgomery vets the partners they work with to make sure they have organic production methods that keep plants healthy.
Included in Senate Bill 1494 is also a provision allowing medical marijuana patients to renew their cards after every two years, rather than annually. MITA, AZ had set the goal of lowering patient card costs two years ago. With the passage of Bill 1491, the annual card renewal charge of $150 will become a biannual fee.
Another bill provision requires the next set of medical cannabis licenses to be issued to rural populations with most significant needs.
The new legislation also allows the DHS to carry out inspections of the licensed cannabis licenses of the state and take disciplinary action against all noncompliant operations. Until now, the DHS did not have the authority to do this.
In 2020, MITA AZ is expected to make efforts to remove the cap regarding the amount of marijuana a patient can purchase from a dispensary, moving it from 2.5 ounces after two weeks, to unlimited. This is because persons with chronic diseases might need more and should be allowed to determine how much medication they need.
Next year, MITA AZ is also looking to push for legislation that allows doctors to determine the conditions appropriate to treat with medical marijuana, and provisions for honoring out-of-state medical cannabis cards.
All the proposed measures would increase medical cannabis access in what is already a significant market, and change the conservative mindset about cannabis in Arizona. As of now, Arizona is a limited licensing state with 131 licenses and a big market ranging from $500 million to $1 billion.