Pubdate: Tue, 14 Dec 2010
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2010 The Arizona Republic
Author: Michelle Ye Hee Lee


The national marijuana-policy group that largely bankrolled Arizona's
medical-marijuana initiative held an educational forum Monday to
explain key parts of the law, federal marijuana statutes and how
medical-marijuana programs were implemented in other states.

About 150 prospective participants in the Arizona medical-marijuana
program attended the forum.

Professionals urged the audience to be informed of the state health
department's rule-making process.

The Arizona Department of Health Services will release the first draft
of its rules on medical marijuana Friday, kicking off a public-comment

Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington, and local professionals
who worked on the Proposition 203 campaign coordinated the forum to
educate prospective participants in anticipation of the public-comment
period, said Joe Yuhas, representative of the Arizona Medical
Marijuana Policy Project and co-founder of the Arizona Medical
Marijuana Association, a trade group for dispensers and growers of
medical marijuana.

The feedback the DHS receives could shape day-to-day activities for
the program, and people looking to participate should help set
standards, Yuhas said.

"There may be some that think this situation will become the same as
it is in some other states," he said.

It is important to maintain support for the program, especially
because Prop. 203 passed by such a slim margin, said Karen O'Keefe,
MPP director of state policies and staff attorney who co-authored
Arizona's initiative.

O'Keefe said even a few instances of participants violating state
regulations could be detrimental to how the public perceives the program.

For example, in Montana, a few roving makeshift clinics called
"cannabis caravans" gained widespread media attention and concerned
legislators in Montana and other states, O'Keefe said.

In an October 2009 memo, the U.S. Department of Justice said that
federal prosecutors should not target "individuals whose actions are
in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing
for the medical use of marijuana."

This is the key phrase future dispensary owners and patients should
keep in mind: making sure their participation in the program is in
"clear and unambiguous" compliance with DHS regulations, said Rob
Kampia, MPP executive director and co-founder.
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