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Proposed law would ensure medical marijuana is untainted

Sen. Sonny Borrelli details legislation Monday which will require testing of medical marijuana and lower the fees being charged to patients. With him are Democratic Reps. Lisa Otondo of Yuma and Mark Cardenas of Phoenix who are among other lawmakers supporting the measure.

Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

Sen. Sonny Borrelli details legislation Monday which will require testing of medical marijuana and lower the fees being charged to patients. With him are Democratic Reps. Lisa Otondo of Yuma and Mark Cardenas of Phoenix who are among other lawmakers supporting the measure.

PHOENIX – State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, introduced legislation Monday at the Capitol Rose Garden that would require medical marijuana products to be tested for safety and quality.

Specifically, the senator is following up on reports that mold was found in medical marijuana sold in the Phoenix area.

“If it’s mold, it shouldn’t be sold,” Borrelli said.

HB 1420 would amend the law to establish inspection protocols for medical marijuana dispensaries beginning Jan. 1, 2019, for sanitary storage conditions, and for the existence of mold in the building.

The state Agriculture Department would collect samples of each product sold at the business for testing to confirm it doesn’t contain mold and is labeled correctly. The disclosure document would list any chemical used in cultivating the product and the actual contents.

The state may contract with a third-party laboratory for testing, and any violations would require remediation. The product would be sent back to the dispensary and would have to be relabeled before selling.

“The director may adopt any rules necessary relating to the cultivation of marijuana for medical use and required testing by independent third-party laboratories of marijuana that is cultivated by a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary or a designated caregiver for medical use,” HB 1420 states.

Borrelli said he’s just trying to make sure medical marijuana patients are fully informed about what they’re getting at the dispensary.

“I think the person that’s buying that stuff, they need to know there’s a heavy carcinogen in there,” Borelli said. “If you’re a cancer patient, would you want to be taking medicine that could make you even sicker?”

The legislation would lower fees for medical marijuana cards from $150 to $100, with a $50 renewal fee each year.

Health director Cara Christ doesn’t want to lower the fees, even in the face of a lawsuit by marijuana users over the huge surplus being held by the Agriculture Department.

“It’s kind of hard to justify when they’re sitting on $40 million,” Borrelli said.

The measure is being approached cautiously by the Marijuana Policy Project, the national organization that put the initiative on the 2010 ballot and worked to get it approved in Arizona.

“In principle, additional safeguards that prevent contamination with molds and pesticides is something we support,” Project spokesman Morgan Fox said. However, he wants to make sure the laws aren’t “too onerous for caregivers in practice.”

HB 1420 has about 80 cosponsors. A three-fourths vote from members of each house of the Legislature is needed to pass the bill.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this article.