Medical marijuana testing bill dies in AZ House from lack of Democratic support

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A bill that would require certain testing on medical marijuana didn't make it out of the House. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A bill that would require certain testing on medical marijuana didn't make it out of the House. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

 A bill to require safety testing of medical marijuana for mold and pesticides died on the House floor Thursday after it failed to meet the three-fourths majority necessary to pass.

The bill, SB 1420, had drawn bipartisan sponsorship from dozens of lawmakers after an investigation by Arizona’s Family found mold on medical marijuana sold at a Phoenix dispensary last year.

Despite being championed by medical marijuana patients and consumer advocates, the bill failed to meet the three-fourths majority because of a lack of support from Democrats. All but two of the 25 House Democrats voted against the bill.

The first House vote failed 33-27. A late-night effort to reconsider the bill also failed, 36-24. The legislation needed 45 votes to pass.

[RELATED: Lab tests find mold on medical marijuana sold in Phoenix; 'It should be pulled off the shelf']

Arizona is one of only two states with no safety testing requirements for medical marijuana; 27 states require some form of testing, according to the Arizona Marijuana Industry Trade Association.

"What they're actually saying when they vote 'no' is that they want chemically-contaminated, bacteria-infected, moldy dope that they're perpetrating as medicine," said the bill’s primary sponsor, state Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu).

Borrelli said the legislation appeared to be undone by last-minute lobbying by an organization representing dispensaries.

[RELATED: Medical marijuana testing bill passed by AZ Senate, heads to House]

Kevin DeMenna, a lobbyist representing the Arizona Dispensary Association, predicted before the House vote that the legislation would fail. He said the ADA wanted to introduce safety-testing requirements as part of “comprehensive” reforms of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act next session.

[RELATED: Arizona lawmakers call for medical marijuana testing; end to 'Wild West' mentality]

“So sad,” said Brandy Williams of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism. “They should not be allowed to sell their contaminated products to sick people.”

Two lawmakers said Dr. Randall Friese, a Democratic member of the House and a surgeon, led the charge against the bill. Several House Democrats said on the floor they supported safety testing of medical marijuana, but the bill was “not ready for prime time.”

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Politics]

"We are one of the few states that have medical marijuana and don't test it. I absolutely agree medical marijuana should be tested. The problem is that this bill doesn't quite get it right," Friese said on the House floor.

"What I don't want to do is put a bill in that doesn't work, that causes problems with testing and then product is backed up on the shelf and doesn't get to the consumer," he added.

In an interview, Friese said there was too much feedback from dispensaries and other stakeholders that the bill needed fine-tuning. In particular, he said he had concerns the bill left too many regulatory specifics up to the Arizona Department of Health Services and the rule-making process.

"It's been eight years since medical marijuana was approved. What's the rush this year? Let's get it right," he said.

Borrelli said he would reintroduce the bill next session but blasted Democrats for abandoning support for the bill, saying they were more interested in protecting dispensaries than patients.

"If you're inhaling something that's got mold on it and you've got a respiratory problem, guess what, you're going to get even sicker," he said. 

Because the proposal was designed to amend a voter-approved law, it required a three-fourths majority of both houses of the Legislature.The bill passed the state Senate in February by a vote of 27-3 but failed to meet the bar in the House.

After a recess, the House passed a measure to allow industrial hemp. SB 1098 passed by a vote of 56-3 and will head to the governor's desk.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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