Wed, Feb. 26

Beware: a lollipop is no longer just a stick of candy

PHOENIX -- A state legislator wants to make it clear that marijuana lollipop you bought in a dispensary is not just candy.

Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, said existing laws on food products require that they list the contents. But she said there is no clear warning to the ultimate user that the product is meant for medicinal purposes only and not just candy or a snack.

Yee actually has several measures she said are designed to deal with the 2010 voter-approved law that allows individuals with a doctor's permission to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

She also is proposing to clarify a year-old law which bans medical marijuana on college and university campuses to say that does not preclude federally approved research. That is designed to deal with an effort by a physician at the University of Arizona College of Medicine who has that required federal go-ahead but has so far been unable to get approval for her work on campus.

And Yee wants to overturn a Court of Appeals ruling which says that police who have marijuana taken from a patient entitled to have the drug have to give it back. Yee said police should not be in the position of supplying a drug that remains banned under federal law.

Arizona health regulations already require that food items include a full list of ingredients in descending order by weight. But Yee said that's not enough.

"We have on the market and on shelves lollipops, candy bars and brownies that have marijuana in the product,' she said. Yee said her measure would require "proper labeling' to make it less attractive to children.

SB 1440 would make it illegal to dispense medical marijuana or marijuana products in any way "that states, suggests or implies that its use is for anything other than the medicinal purposes' allowed in the 2010 law. Yee said that would require it to be sold with a warning that it is for medical purposes only, comparing that to the surgeon general's warning required on packages of cigarettes.

She acknowledged that the only place someone can legally obtain a marijuana lollipop or brownie is at a state-regulated dispensary. And only someone with a state-issued medical marijuana card can buy such items.

But Yee said that's not enough.

"Once it leaves the dispensary it is now in the hands of many other people,' she said. And Yee said that these items can be packaged in a way to be attractive to children.

Another measure, SB 1441, is designed to keep police officers and sheriff's deputies from being in the position of having to give marijuana to anyone.

That legislation follows an appellate court ruling last month which said the Yuma County Sheriff's Department had to return some marijuana which had been taken by a Border Patrol agent from a California woman.

The Border Patrol had turned the matter -- and the drugs -- over to the county. But there was no prosecution because she has a medical marijuana card from her home state, one which is honored in Arizona.

But when Valerie Okun asked for her drugs backed, the sheriff's department balked, saying that would put its deputies in violation of federal drug laws.

In its ruling, the appellate court said the 2010 law gave Okun the right to possess the drug in the first place. And that, they ruled, entitles her to get the drugs back, rejecting arguments that would be contrary to federal laws.

Yee's measure says any drugs that wind up in police custody have to be destroyed, even if they were improperly taken in the first place.

The third measure, SB 1443, follows a decision last year by lawmakers to ban medical marijuana use on college campuses. Proponents said allowing drugs that are federally forbidden would endanger a school's federal dollars.

Yee said , it was never the intent to block research which has been authorized. But the Board of Regents, relying on that law, blocked a bid by Sue Sisley, a specialist in internal medicine and psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine to study whether marijuana can help combat veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Sisley said her proposal already has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and was given the go-ahead by the UA's Institutional Review Board which must approve research on live subjects.

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