Pubdate: Wed, 2 Jun 2010
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2010 The Arizona Republic
Author: Alia Beard Rau, The Arizona Republic
Cited: The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


Effort to Legalize Drug's Use by the Ill Earns Enough Support for Ballot Spot

The deadline to file petitions to get an initiative on the Nov. 2 
statewide ballot is still a month away, but on Tuesday an effort to 
legalize medical marijuana became the first to qualify for a spot.

The Secretary of State's Office on Tuesday determined that the 
Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project had submitted enough valid 
signatures to qualify. In April, the group turned in 252,000 
signatures; they needed at least 145,698 valid signatures.

So far, 15 different groups have pulled papers to begin gathering 
signatures for various referendum and initiative efforts, including 
efforts to restrict property taxes, limit or eliminate photo 
enforcement, get voter input on Arizona's new immigration law and 
deny the possibility of parole to individuals convicted of felonies 
that are violent or sexual in nature.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project is the only one so far 
to turn in signatures. The Arizona campaign is largely bankrolled by 
the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which provided 
most of the $487,250 spent by the state effort through Dec. 31, 
nearly all for paid signature collectors.

Dec. 31 was the latest deadline to report fundraising figures. 
Committees must next report contributions June 30.

Campaign manager Andrew Myers said the next step is to begin 
educating voters about what the initiative hopes to accomplish.

"This is about protecting our most vulnerable citizens from a really 
cruel and unnecessary law that forces them to live in fear when all 
they want to do is acquire medication that makes their life worth 
living," Myers said.

"This is about protecting people who are seriously or terminally ill 
from being arrested just for following their doctor's advice."

The initiative proposes to allow patients with a debilitating medical 
condition such as cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis to purchase, 
possess and use 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks with a 
doctor's recommendation.

Non-profit dispensaries regulated by the state would grow and sell 
the drug to approved patients.

It still would be illegal to use marijuana in a public place or to 
drive under the influence of marijuana in Arizona, but the initiative 
forbids employers from firing qualified medical-marijuana users who 
test positive for the drug unless they can prove patients used or 
were impaired while at work.

A campaign committee has been established to fight the initiative. 
Stop the Pot, run by Max Fose and Judy Connell of Phoenix, had 
collected no donations as of Dec. 31, but Fose had contributed $2,500 
in in-kind work to develop

"Stop the Pot is a statewide grassroots organization created to stop 
liberal special interests groups from making illegal drugs legal in 
Arizona," the website states.

"If these liberal special interests groups have their way, a person 
in Arizona will be able to obtain about 200 joints every two weeks. 
(Two hundred) joints a person is a lot of drugs on our streets, in 
our neighborhoods, and around our children."

Thirteen states allow the possession of small amounts of marijuana 
for medical purposes, although only California has established a 
widespread network of dispensaries to distribute it.

This is the fourth time since 1996 Arizona voters have been asked to 
decriminalize marijuana as a medicine.

That year, voters approved a ballot initiative that allowed the use 
of the drug with a doctor's prescription.

But authorities threatened to revoke the license of doctors who 
prescribed the drug, and state lawmakers gutted the law.

In 1998, voters rejected a pair of referendums that would have 
hindered the legalization of medical marijuana - most notably by 
requiring Congress or the federal government to OK its use before any 
doctor could prescribe it.

In 2002, voters rejected an effort to make it legal to possess small 
quantities of marijuana and make the drug available for free to 
patients suffering from cancer and other diseases.
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