Arizonans who get a doctor’s recommendation to buy medical marijuana are going to have to shell out a little extra money for the state.

But users, legal and otherwise, will still be able to wrap the drug in cigar-paper “blunts.”

Attorney General Tom Horne said Wednesday that the marijuana sold at state-regulated dispensaries being set up under Proposition 203 is subject to the 6.6 percent sales tax.

Horne acknowledged that the law, approved by voters, spells out only those who have a specific recommendation from a doctor are entitled to purchase the drug.

And he said that prescription sales are exempt from the levy.

“But that statute didn’t use the word ‘prescriptions,’” Horne said. “It used the words ‘written certification.’”

That was deliberate.

A 1996 voter-approved law allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana was never implemented because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency threatened to revoke all prescription-writing privileges of any physician who wrote such an order for a substance that remains illegal under federal law. This new law, mirroring the successful practice in other states, avoids that term.

Horne said that as far as he’s concerned, that ends the discussion.

“Since they’re not prescriptions, then, in my view, it’s taxable like anything else is taxable,” he said.

That conclusion by the state’s chief attorney means the Arizona Department of Revenue will be instructing dispensaries to start collecting the tax. That means not only the state’s 6.6 percent levy but any local sales taxes.

Chandler assistant city manager Pat McDermott said that city officials have not had discussions about a tax, but added that it is “safe to presume” is that most municipalities would enact one if the state does.

“We haven’t talked about it, because we were under the initial impression that it couldn’t be taxed,” McDermott said. “If it’s taxable and it’s put in the tax code, I would imagine that we would go ahead and do it too.”

Mesa City Manager Chris Brady expects Arizona’s municipalities will take the same approach to a tax, though he wasn’t sure yet what that will be. Cities typically develop a model tax code at the League of Arizona Towns and Cities, he said, to avoid disparities.

“I think we’d all try to be consistent,” Brady said.

Tempe expects the league will develop an ordinance to guide cities, but officials said the ultimate decision will rest with the City Council.

Gilbert spokeswoman Beth Lucas said town officials are aware of Horne’s position, but there have been no formal discussions.

The amount of money at issue is nothing to sneeze at. Horne figures the levy could generate $40 million for the state, an estimate he said is based on a Denver Post story on how much marijuana is sold through dispensaries in that community “and applying that pro-rata to the Arizona population.”

Andrew Myers, who managed the pro-203 campaign, expressed some concern.

“We’re not wild about the idea of increasing the cost of what essentially is medication for seriously ill people,” he said. But Myers said there would be no challenge.

Horne acknowledged his conclusion means those who buy marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation will pay taxes. And those who acquire it elsewhere, for any other reason, will not.

“Well, I suppose that’s true of all products if you buy contraband,” he said. “There have been problems with cigarette smuggling for that very purpose. You avoid taxes.”

The issue of how people might smoke the drug, legally or otherwise, comes in an attempt to outlaw the sale of the specialized rolling papers in Arizona.

“Blunt wraps” are rolling papers with some tobacco content. They are officially marketed to those who want to make their own cigars rather than buying one pre-rolled, most of which are done by machine.

On Wednesday, members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Energy scrapped, at least temporarily, legislation proposed by the Cigar Association of America to ban the manufacture, sale or distribution of blunt wraps.

Lobbyist Steve Barclay told lawmakers there is no legitimate use for the papers. He said any claim by manufacturers and retailers that people are rolling their own cigars is belied by the fact that far more papers are sold than tobacco to fill them.

But Ron Tully, vice president of National Tobacco Co. said those arguments are a smoke screen.

“It’s a commercial plea to squeeze us out of the market,” he said. Tully told lawmakers that the products his company sells, including the line of Zig-Zag rolling papers, is crowding cigars off the counters of convenience stores.

Anyway, Tully said, the term “blunts” for a marijuana cigar actually comes from the original practice of drug users hollowing out a short, fat cigar, called a blunt, and replacing the tobacco. That practice, he said, would remain legal.

Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, who sponsored the legislation, pulled it from consideration amid various questions, including the idea of having Arizona ban an otherwise-legal product. But Reagan said she may recraft it, narrowing it to only ban the sale of these items to minors.

Tully said his firm has no problem with that.

Tribune writers Dan Zeiger and Garin Groff contributed to this report.

(17) comments

pjgillis

Politicians have no moral right to prohibit the consumption of marijuana. What God has gven humanity is not subject to the prejudices of goverment. This is fundamental to our Bill Of Rights, i.e. rights given by God are not jubject to the whims of those scoundrels who inevitably invade our legisaive bodies.

Poorman

Ho! Hum!

AZMomma

Of course it should be taxed. After all, it wasn't legalized for humanitarian reasons, it was ok'd because of the REVENUE it might generate.
No big deal. Tax it, send in the monthly check to DOR and just shut up.
Am anxious to see this actually go into public sale to see just how much money goes into the State coffers.

soricobob

I don't know why the taxing of a legal transaction involving a legal substance is news.

x1134x

imanoid: you are WRONG about the mormons knowing about mrs brock. They knew SOMETHING was amiss but they DID NOT *KNOW* this was happening. They were INSTRUMENTAL in getting this exposed and bringing her to justice. Its the exact opposite of what you said.

That being said, ALL mormons should pray and think about their position on cannabis laws, and taking freedoms from a person who has harmed nobody.

hoopydreams

@lwolfe: excellent post! I hope that people for and against it will attend!

lwolfe

Mapping the Minefield of Medical Marijuana:
Arizona’s Green Relief Medical Marijuana Convention & Expo
April 14 - 16, 2011 at the Renaissance Hotel, Glendale, AZ

GLENDALE, Ariz - January 6, 2011 - Arizona voters approved a Medical Marijuana law on November 2nd. The confusion surrounding the new law started on November 3rd. Thankfully, there’s relief on the way. The Green Relief Medical Marijuana Convention & Expo, www.GreenReliefExpo.com a medical convention focusing on the legalities, impact on employers, patient’s rights and responsibilities and dispensary set-up and operations, will be held April 14 – 16, 2011 at the Renaissance Hotel and Spa in Glendale, Arizona. The Medical Marijuana Convention is being produced by Big Truck Media Group.

The vote that made Medical Marijuana legal in Arizona was so close that it took more than ten days to be officially verified. That was followed by a flurry of city meetings to determine municipal regulations regarding where and when medical marijuana can be sold. Finally, the law enforcement community - taking cues from the federal government, the state of Arizona and local towns and cities - joined the chorus of the confused.

People suffering pain, loss of appetite and/or nausea from a debilitating disease seem to be closer than ever to finding relief from their symptoms through Medical Marijuana - but there are a lot of questions to answer.

Will the Feds turn a blind eye to Glaucoma patients who smoke marijuana? Does a positive drug test equal a negative employment future? Could compassionate pain relief mean harsh punishment? How will doctors and dispensaries deal with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency)?

Green Relief 2011 will answer these and other questions through a series of comprehensive educational tracks:

● Integrating Medical Marijuana into medical and legal practices
● Impact and opportunities on local business owners
● Patient’s rights and responsibilities
● Dispensary guidelines, compliance and operations

Green Relief 2011 will offer a professional forum for the uninitiated, under-informed and reticent potential patients and physicians who may be aware of Medical Marijuana as a potential treatment option, but who otherwise lack the understanding needed to make an educated determination about its appropriateness for their condition.

In addition, the Green Relief 2011 expo floor will offer a dynamic blend of vendors including consultants, delivery system manufacturers, professional services, publications, agriculture, associations and equipment and accessories catering to the Medical Marijuana community.

Green Relief 2011 will also feature guest speakers that include inspiring leaders in the field of medical marijuana, as well as, those in a position of enforcing the law in between the thin lines where local, federal and personal concerns intersect.

Topics will include the status of Arizona guidelines for the use, distribution and regulation of Medical Marijuana, dispensary how-to’s, medical card guidelines and the latest delivery systems.

“Since Arizona voters passed Prop 203 in November, businesses have been scrambling to take advantage of the opportunities medical marijuana offers,” said Lisa Wolfe, co-founder of Big Truck Media Group. “Green Relief 2011 will bring patients, health care providers as well as business owners together to educate and inform in this rapidly expanding Medical Marijuana marketplace.”

Arizonans approved marijuana for medical use previously in 1996. That ballot measure passed with 65 percent of the vote, but never took effect because of its language. The 1996 initiative let patients use marijuana if they had a “prescription from their doctor.”

Doctors, however, are not allowed to write “prescriptions” for marijuana because the federal government classifies it as a drug with no medical value. Arizona’s new Medical Marijuana Law allows doctors to instead, write a “recommendation” that a patient receive Medical Marijuana rather than a prescription.

Information about Green Relief 2011 can also be found on Facebook at Green Relief Medical Marijuana Convention & Expo or by email at info@GreenReliefExpo.com

Poorman

I been wondering how long it would take the wizards to get around to making a good tax dollar on the stuff. Personally i don't care i don.t use the tuff and never have or will. I get my good drugs from my Doc.Nice and easy and legal.

hoopydreams

I just ask 1 question to those against Marijuana: How is it worse for you than alcohol or tobacco? I'm not talking about the legality of it, I'm talking about medical evidence that proves that people are dying from it because they are USING it.

Imanoid

Hey, Hillstreet and all scum like him: As a writer said on another story regarding taxing MM. He says that once the person hits the tax threshold, whatever amount that is, one can then start to deduct these taxes and full amounts of the MM from their tax forms. That way the state of Arizona and scum like you will be subsidizing their use of MM. See, thought you were so smart. But, I bet you are an inbred Mormon who received the worst education in the nation. Ha! Brock and his sex addicted women and the mormon church knew all along what was happening. Indict them all.

x1134x

Ha ha hillstreet. This tax is your worst nightmare. With the MASSIVE amount of money it is going to bring in, and the need for tax revenue we have, this is going to make the law permanent and favored by even MORE people when "BAD" marijuana money is used for "good".

rrjenn

hill, you are an idiot. I don't use drugs of any sort either legal or not unless my doctor prescribed it and I agreed, and I don't recommend anyone use them, but anyone with half a brain can see why most of these illegal drugs have become a problem. Simple truth is that it isn't the drug that causes 90% of the problems. The problem is because they are illegal. Make them legal and the drug gangs go back to selling kool-aid on the street corners, and the users stop stealing to support a habit because the price goes down to nothing. The Volstead Act that made alcohol illegal is a prime example of what happens when you give all control of a substance to the criminal elements. As soon as alcohol was made illegal, the feds gave up control of the drug, the prices went up, and only the gangs benefited. Heck, the Volstead Act practically created organized crime in America. Before that, all they had was the numbers racket and protection scams. Right after passing the act, Capone and the boys really started making real money, and after we finally woke up and made booze legal again, they shifted to pot, heroin and cocaine. You love organized crime and the crime that goes with it then keep all drugs illegal. You want to control who uses drugs then make them legal but controlled like alcohol and tobacco. The fact is that tobacco and alcohol are responsible for 1000% more problems than pot could ever hope to do, and it's illegal? You want to control drugs then make them legal. You want the gangs to control them then keep them illegal.

EmperorSmith

Nice attitude NYPD if you are are cop don't ever threaten, or else a cop might get SHOT.

hillstreet

LOL! never fails, guaranteed way to get the potheads talking.[beam]

anod12

This law isn't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact once the state starts seeing the money that can be made, their going to start looking into relaxing the law even more.

Hillstreet, you must be 80 years old. You talk like my grandpa did back in the 60's. "Them dopers and their dope"

FreeThinking

I guess Carl Segan, Tim Turner, Steve Jobs, and many MANY other great minds were just stupid potheads. I dare you to research the benefits of this gift from God.

I'll help you get started:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqJO-RFQfHk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYXJNDe1ReM

hillstreet

Good, tax this law into extinction and make the potheads move to California. This is nothing but a scam for dopers to get their dope.

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