Phoenix/ Politics & Govt
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Published on February 17, 2024
Arizona Eyes Interstate Cannabis Commerce, Awaits Federal Legalization MoveSource: Unsplash/Shelby Ireland

Arizona could stand on the precipice of a cannabis commerce revolution as legislators have pushed through a bill, House Bill 2770, that would permit marijuana to be sold across state lines—the catch, though, is the federal legalization of cannabis. According to ABC15, Representative Justin Wilmeth, who chairs the Arizona House Commerce Committee, sponsored the bill that looks to place the state on a competitive footing with Washington, Oregon, and California which have passed similar legislation.

Wilmeth explained, "What this measure is trying to do is trying to get Arizona to that point to where they can be at the start line so that when the feds wave the flag they can start competing and start selling immediately across state lines." Local dispensary owner Raul Molina weighed in, suggesting this could stabilize an industry known for price volatility. "You have states like in Arizona, where it’s a fairly low price, and then you have states that are newer into the market that haven't developed their cultivation industry yet and they are much, much higher, at least two to three times the amount of price that we're paying in Arizona for wholesale flower," Molina told ABC15.

After some initial resistance that led to a split decision, the House Commerce Committee came around on a second consideration, approving the bill 6-4. Rep. Wilmeth said to the committee, "The reason I’m running this is because I’m a big believer in interstate commerce," as reported by Marijuana Moment. Emphasizing preparedness, he added, "But the point of me running this bill this year, this moment, is to be prepared so that when it does come, we can go off to the races and our marijuana industry can be successful and beneficial in every way possible."

Should the federal tide turn, the Arizona bill necessitates agreements ensuring public health and safety standards are met, including a means to regulate and track the interstate delivery of marijuana. Simultaneously, there's a broader national conversation on the status of marijuana, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommending a move from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act—a proposal that's now under DEA's review. The outcome could present implications for state-sanctioned interstate cannabis commerce endeavors, the specifics of which remain unclear.

The progress in Arizona reflects a growing trend as similarly spirited bills have surfaced in New Jersey and Maine. Even as these efforts unfold, they sit against the backdrop of a nation wherein the particulars of marijuana policy remain a patchwork of state initiates precariously juxtaposed against the overarching federal law. As Arizona lawmakers vote in the coming weeks, eyes are on the federal government's next move as much as they are on this desert state's bid to transform itself into a hub of marijuana production and export.