BY ACM STAFF
In a surprise move, the House Democratic Caucus successfully blocked progress on SB1024, a revenue reporting bill sponsored by Lake Havasu Republican, Sen Sonny Borrelli. The bill would require DHS to share dispensary revenue data with the state Dept of Revenue. The bill was created in reaction to a 2018 expose that reported some Maricopa County dispensaries were suspected of shorting county officials on their taxes.
Dispensary lobbyists argued against the measure claiming reporting their revenues to DHS would be intrusive and burdensome. The bill also allows for impromptu inspections of dispensary facilities, similar to the food safety inspections conducted by health departments. Currently DHS schedules inspections weeks in advance and must provide five days notice before a “surprise visit.”
Perhaps the biggest sticking point has been the revocation powers the bill gives DHS over scofflaw dispensaries. Industry insiders claim the bill would give a hostile government agency the authority to destroy multi-million-dollar companies over a single incident. Bill sponsor Borrelli says that kind of talk is just fearmongering. “Of course, it’s got due process,” Borrelli insists. “We intend to enforce violations the same way you would with a liquor store or a restaurant. They get warnings, they get hearings, they get fines. They get many bites of the apple before they get their hands slapped. This is the same idea. I just want these companies to be as transparent as any other business.”
All in all, 19 Democratic representatives followed their caucus leaders Rep Charlene Fernandez of Yuma and Dr Randy Friese of Tucson in the NO vote. Friese had pushed for an amendment while the bill was being discussed a few weeks back that would add a “cannabis definitions” provision to the language. Dr Friese still insists the cannabis definitions must be added to this bill so the legislature can make a statement on concentrates ahead of the pending Supreme Court decision on the Jones Case, which is not expected until after the legislative session ends mid-May. Ten Democrats broke with their party leadership and joined the GOP representatives who unanimously voted Aye.
The final vote tally was 41-19, the bill received a clear majority of the votes, but proved 4 short for the 3/4s requirement to amend a citizens’ initiative. Rep Warren Petersen called for a “reconsideration” vote for the bill. That vote is scheduled for next week.