Arizona Lawmaker Proposes Bill to Block Parolees and Probationers from Medical Marijuana Access
Republican Rep. Vince Leach has tried to restrict access to the state’s voter-approved cannabis program before, and now he’s set his sights on excluding Arizona’s recently incarcerated from it.
Published on January 9, 2018

Jeff Sessions isn't the only one with a reefer madness bone to pick. In Arizona, where medical marijuana has been legal for over five years, Republican Representative Vince Leach has proposed new restrictions to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) that would block Copper State residents on parole and probation from accessing the all-natural medicine.

According to the Phoenix New Times, Leach introduced a new piece of legislation, HB 2068, last week that, if passed, would "prohibit [recently incarcerated residents] from possessing or using medical marijuana… as a condition of the person's probation, community supervision, or parole."

Under the proposed legislation, law enforcement and court authorities would be given the power to grant or block medical cannabis access to recently released Arizonans.

If that sounds like an unnecessary punishment for people who have already served their time behind bars, you're not alone. To hear local cannabis-minded attorney Tom Dean tell it, the renunciation of AMMA's power is not only a long-shot, but historically moot.

"I don't think this guy's thinking it through," Dean told the New Times of Leach's bill. The attorney cited Reed-Kaliher v. Arizona, a 2015 state Supreme Court case dealing with the exact same issue that ended in a ruling guaranteeing unfettered medical marijuana access to qualified residents.

"Thus, AMMA does not deny even those convicted of violent crimes or drug offenses (so long as they are not incarcerated) access to medical marijuana if it could alleviate severe or chronic pain or debilitating medical conditions," the Arizona Supreme Court justices wrote in the 2015 ruling. "We therefore conclude that the immunity provision of AMMA does not exclude probationers."

But while Dean is quick to predict that HB 2068 will crash and burn before it even makes it to a vote, this isn't Rep. Leach's first attempt to restrict legal weed access. Last year Leach introduced multiple pieces of anti-cannabis legislation, including one that would have blocked food stamp recipients from state discounts on MMJ registration fees. That bill, along with another plan to restrict dispensaries from moving locations, failed before they ever got off the ground.

As of press time Leach's latest bill has not found any additional support in the Arizona legislator and has not moved past its initial filing.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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