Insider: Recall Effort Against Sen. Kimberly Yee Over Medical Pot Ends

AZ Central reports that veterans in favor of medical marijuana research have withdrawn a recall initiative against Arizona state Senator Kimberly Yee, who blocked a bill intended to fund MAPS’ FDA-approved research into marijuana for PTSD. After launching the recall effort in April, the Arizona Veterans Assistance Committee worked alongside Yee and her attorney to come to an agreement about future legislature and research. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez of AZ Central shares information from her interview with Daron Babin of the Arizona Veteran’s Assistance Committee, noting that “Yee has committed to building a bi-partisan coalition to craft legislation next session that would allow funding for the study of cannabis as a treatment to various ailments.”

Medical-marijuana advocates have ended an effort to recall Republican state Sen. Kimberly Yee of Phoenix, whom they blame for blocking legislation last session that could have funded research on the drug’s effects on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Daron Babin, a spokesman for the Arizona Veteran’s Assistance Committee, told The Arizona Republic the group withdrew its recall effort Thursday morning. He said Yee has committed to building a bi-partisan coalition to craft legislation next session that would allow funding for the study of cannabis as a treatment to various ailments.

Babin said the group has been assured by Yee’s attorney, Mike Liburdi, that Yee was committed to work with medical marijuana advocates on the issue.

“Our overall goal was really to educate her on our position … that there are brave men and women that have fought bravely for this country and really are left out to dry on their own because they’re prescribed pharmaceuticals that really do not help them,” Babin said.

But Liburdi disputed there was an agreement between Yee and the group regarding future studies of medical marijuana: “They’ve cherry picked statements that I’ve made in the context of an overall discussion that was in a different context,” Liburdi said.

He added: “What they’re doing now is trying to capitalize on selected statements and they’re drawing false conclusions. And they’re wrong. There is no agreement to do anything.”

Liburdi said Yee would soon issue a statement on the matter.

Last legislative session, Yee would not allow a hearing of House Bill 2333, which would have allowed medical-marijuana cardholder fees to fund a University of Arizona study to determine how medical pot would affect veterans with PTSD.

Veterans have tried to persuade the Arizona Department of Health Services, which oversees the state’s medical-marijuana program, to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions. State health officials have refused to add the medical condition, saying there is inadequate research about marijuana’s effects on PTSD.

The UA study, spearheaded by Dr. Sue Sisley, has been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sisley, a vocal advocate for medical marijuana in treating veterans, hoped to finance part of the study with state money.

The Arizona Veterans Assistance Committee filed recall-petition paperwork in April with the Secretary of State’s Office. The committee needs to gather 18,297 signatures by Aug. 2 to qualify for the ballot. The committee is backed by Arizona’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

HB 2333 bill had overwhelming support from the Arizona House of Representatives, passing on a 52-5 vote. It was then assigned to the Senate Education Committee, which Yee chairs.

Yee blocked the bill, saying she refused to place it on her panel’s agenda because of “significant concerns” voiced by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys Advisory Council.