Pubdate: Thu, 1 Oct 2009
Source: Arizona Daily Wildcat (AZ Edu)
Copyright: 2009 Arizona Daily Wildcat
Author: Austin Counts
Cited: The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project
Cited: AZ-4-NORML
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Marijuana reform advocates say patients in need of herbal pain 
medication are closer to relief, as efforts increase in Arizona to 
turn out support for a proposition in favor of the legalization of 
medical marijuana.

To date, The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project says it has 
collected more than 130,000 voters' signatures -- approximately 
23,000 short of the 153,000 voter signatures required to get the 
proposition onto the November 2010 ballot.

"There are thousands of sick Arizonans who need medical marijuana for 
pain relief," said Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the project.

"Currently, they have two choices: continue to suffer or go to the 
criminal market to purchase illegal marijuana. We hope to change that."

The proposition aims to allow Arizonans with qualifying ailments to 
receive limited amounts of medical marijuana from dispensaries 
regulated by the state.

The Arizona Department of Health Services would issue permits to 
these patients, granting them the choice between herbal and 
pharmaceutical medication.

If the proposal makes the 2010 ballot and passes, the law will 
protect the rights of doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to 
patients who suffer from painful diseases from state and federal prosecution.

Mary MacKenzie, Treasurer for AZ-4-National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws, advocates ending medical marijuana 
prohibition so that qualifying patients can receive the treatment they deserve.

"We have a lot of patients in need in Arizona and we don't need 
doctors going to jail for doing their job," said MacKenzie.

However, opponents to the proposition believe that it is nothing more 
than a step toward the decriminalization -- and eventually 
legalization -- of recreational marijuana use.

Myers disagrees with this sentiment due to the proposition's stance 
on upholding restrictions on such things as the public use of marijuana.

"The legalization of medical marijuana is our priority, not the 
legalization for recreational use," Myers said. "If (legalization of 
marijuana for personal use) was going to happen, it would have passed already."

Bill Godfrey, a medical marijuana user who recently lost part of his 
foot due to diabetes, uses the drug as prescribed by his California doctor.

Godfrey supports Arizona taking the same measures that California 
took in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana.

"When I take painkillers, they put me to sleep for 16 hours or make 
me so groggy I can't remember to take my insulin," said Godfrey. 
"Medical marijuana doesn't do that, it just relieves the pain and relaxes me."

This is not the first time legalization of medical marijuana has been 
placed on the Arizona ballot. In 1996, Arizona voters passed 
Proposition 200, which granted the use of medical marijuana to 
qualifying patients while creating stiffer laws against personal use. 
This proposition was later overturned by the Arizona Legislature 
because it conflicted with federal laws.

In February 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the 
federal government would no longer raid medical marijuana 
dispensaries as long as they were in accordance with state law.

This is good news for patients who are eligible for medical marijuana 
but cannot receive the medication due to conflicting state and federal laws.

As the deadline for gathering 153,000 voters' signatures by July 2010 
approaches, Myers said he will, with the help of 450 petitioners, 
continue to gather signatures from Arizona voters.

"We are very confident that this will work for patients, the 
community and even law enforcement," said Myers. "It's a win-win 
situation for everyone." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake