Lawmaker Digs in Heels on Arizona MMJ Repeal, Rejects Pleas From Dispensaries and Patients

An Arizona lawmaker remains determined to put the state’s medical marijuana law back in front of voters despite an attempt by dispensary owners, MMJ advocates and patients to get him to reconsider.

Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) told Capitol Media Services that his position on the issue has not changed after cannabis supporters held a press conference urging him to back off his proposal to repeal the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and pressed the state to crack down on unregulated cannabis clubs. Kavanagh recently submitted a bill that would place the voter-approved act back on the ballot next year, saying he thinks residents should vote on it again.

His commitment to pursuing a repeal puts a damper on the state’s medical marijuana industry, which is just now hitting its stride as the first dispensaries open up after two years of challenges. Medical cannabis centers and related businesses must now deal with a huge unknown on the horizon, making it hard to plan for the future and grow their operations.

In justifying his position, Kavanagh cited research from medical organizations claiming that marijuana harms – not helps – people. He also pointed to a court ruling this week rejecting a bid to reclassify marijuana at the federal level; a recent study claiming that some medical marijuana is winding up in the hands of teens; data that shows most patients in the state qualify for MMJ cards based on chronic pain, which he said is “easy to fake”; and his overall opinion that the majority of locals are now opposed to medical cannabis.

It’s an exhaustive list. But medical cannabis advocates have been able to poke many holes in these arguments. The recent study about teens getting marijuana from current cardholders, for example, also found that overall cannabis use among youth is down since the state adopted MMJ laws (not to mention the fact the teens get their hands on plenty of other substances – such as alcohol – from adults).

More importantly, the state has already lost numerous legal battles challenging the law. Kavanagh’s attempt to repeal the legislation appears to be a desperate, last-ditch effort by officials who refuse to accept a voter-approved initiative. The move could backfire if voters – especially those in the middle ground on the MMJ issue – view it as such. In that case, residents could vote in favor of the medical marijuana act on principle alone (lawmakers should respect, not challenge, the will of the voters) and vote against officials who back the repeal.

The industry is hoping it won’t get to that point. Kavanagh still must convince enough of his fellow lawmakers to put the bill back on the ballot.