Huddle Over Strategy
On Wednesday, The Phoenix Cannabis Coalition’s February Meeting Covered Its Platform About Law Enforcement, Legislation, Medicine, The Courts, The Prison Industrial Complex, Politics, Labor, And Liberty
By Chris Braswell
Modern Times Magazine
Feb. 6, 2014 — The Phoenix Cannabis Coalition met for their monthly meeting last night at the Firehouse Gallery for a discussion on ending marijuana prohibition through any legal means necessary.
The anti-prohibitionist platform has a diversity of angles, and the group’s agenda touched on many of them. Some of the activists focus on medicinal cannabinoids. Others think of the plant primarily in terms of its culinary value. Yet, some are more generalized in their approach, arguing all angles, and these individuals tend to have responded to their specialization of activism with campaigning and political posturing.
Mojave County’s Mikel Weisser, a left-leaning activist and a 2014 candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional District 4, spoke to the crowd of about two dozen at the meeting.
He said there are 195 people currently in prison in the state of Arizona for cannabis-related offenses, and that there are about 18,000 cannabis-related arrests in the state each year. Educating lawmakers to replace antiquated laws about cannabis use in a time where the plant’s regular medicinal use is facilitated and protected in a growing number of states, including Arizona, is important, Weisser said.
Weisser, who is involved with the cannabis anti-prohibitionist group Safer Arizona, invited those at the meeting to join him on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the state capitol in downtown Phoenix, for a conversation with the majority council of the Arizona House of Representatives.
“That's one of the concepts that we're working with at Safer Arizona: addressing this as something that can be changed through political process,” Weisser said. “We get a lot of support from the democratic party, but they are not the majority party in the statehouse.”
His wife Beth, who is a retired teacher, business owner, and will run for a district 5 seat in the Arizona House of Representatives this year, said she felt marijuana laws infringe on an individual’s personal freedoms.
“A lot of republicans in office do not care about most of your rights,” she said. “What they care about is what their conservative-money people care about.”
This sort of attitude is often reflected in legislation that lowers taxes, she said, which impedes public infrastructure and programs such as public schools.
Beth Weisser also touched upon the state’s need to amend criminal code for cannabis possession.
“We reduce our labor force if they can’t get teaching certificates because of a felony,” she said.
She said if those who share the point of view that marijuana decriminalization is necessary will discuss their opinions with their elected representatives, it will help them make politically tough decisions.
“Call them and let them know and you might be the one to change their minds,” she said.
The chairman of the Phoenix Cannabis Coalition, Eric Johnson, said that cannabis’ current statutory scheduling as a narcotic in Arizona defies legal logic since it is also sanctioned by the state as a medicinal implement. Currently it is codified as a Schedule I drug, which denotes no medicinal value, he said. However, Arizona medicinal cannabis policy is already in place.
Yesterday, the Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble announced in his blog (http://directorsblog.health.azdhs.gov/?p=5055) that his department has posted new draft rules to comply with a judge's order, as well as closing some loopholes found in physician certifications and delivery by dispensaries.
There have been a number of court cases won that are positive with respect to reaching these goals, although a recent DUI precedent was just set that went the other way.
“As of right now, we all are in trouble, even if we have a (medicinal cannabis) card, for DUI”, Johnson said. “If we are driving, even if we are not high, we are on the hook for a DUI.”
Currently pending in the 51st Arizona Legislature is House Bill 2474, which would make less than two pounds of cannabis a petty offense, with a fine of $100 for possession of an ounce or less.
“I don’t want to see my brothers and sisters going to jail for a plant. Go out and get the murderers, go out and get the rapists, go out and get the cartels,” Johnson said. “This is how change happens. Change doesn’t happen if we’re silent.”
Toward the end of the meeting, retired chiropractor Allen J. Harrison spoke about his cannabis-related arrest for possession of edible marijuana products. Johnson called for community support for Harrison at his Feb. 24 court date at Maricopa County Superior Court. Casual dress is requested, along with a silent exit at such time that Harrison exits the hearing.
For more information about the Phoenix Cannabis Coalition and its meetings, visit http://phoenixcannabiscoalition.org/.
Chris G. Braswell is the managing editor of Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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