Pubdate: Wed, 22 Sep 2010
Source: Kingman Daily Miner (AZ)
Copyright: 2010 Kingman Daily Miner
Author: David Rookhuyzen


PHOENIX - Heather Torgerson wrote a college paper against the use of
medical marijuana. Today, however, she says what once seemed so wrong
then is the reason she's survived brain cancer.

She almost had to stop treatment after chemotherapy and radiation left
her nauseated and fatigued. When prescriptions and homeopathic
remedies didn't reverse her weight loss, she turned to marijuana.

Torgerson said her appetite returned within five minutes.

"I owe my life to it," she said.

As chair of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, Torgerson
says many Arizonans would benefit if voters approve Proposition 203, a
ballot measure that would legalize the medical use of marijuana.

The proposition would allow a qualifying person with a doctor's
recommendation to receive 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from
licensed dispensaries. Qualifying conditions would include cancer,
glaucoma, AIDS and chronic pain.

The Arizona Department of Health Services would register and issue
identification cards to patients and caregivers to use marijuana or
grow up to 12 plants if they live far from a dispensary.

With most of its funding in the form of cash and in-kind contributions
from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington D.C.-based lobbying
group, Torgerson's group gathered enough petition signatures to place
the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical
marijuana. Minnesota voters also are deciding a ballot measure in November.

Meanwhile, California's Proposition 19 would legalize and regulate
marijuana much like tobacco or alcohol.

Arizona voters approved medical marijuana use in 1996, but the measure
never took effect because it would have required a doctor's
prescription, which is illegal under the federal law. Proposition 203
instead would require a doctor's recommendation, which would have the
same weight as a prescription but only on a state level.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year that the
government wouldn't prosecute marijuana users who comply with state

Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona Medical Marijuana
Policy Project, says the measure will protect the seriously ill.

"Right now those people face a really terrible choice," Myers said.
"They either have to continue suffering with a serious, debilitating
medical condition or they have to follow their doctor's advice, use
marijuana illegally and then live in fear of arrest and

Opponents, however, say that the law is less about medicine and more
about protecting marijuana users.

"Saying that this is for medicine for sick people is an absolute
smokescreen," said Carolyn Short, chairwoman of a group calling itself
Keep AZ Drug Free, Proposition 203's chief opposition.

Short said a loophole in the measure is the inclusion of severe and
chronic pain as a qualifying condition. In other states with medical
marijuana laws, she said, almost all patients use the drug for pain
rather than serious illness.

In addition, Short said the allowed 2.5 ounces would equal 200 joints,
which she said is more than one person can smoke in two weeks.

"What happens to the excess?" Short said. "I think we know what
happens to the excess."

Myers said the 2.5-ounce allowance is necessary since most patients
consume marijuana with food, which require more of the drug.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services,
said the Food and Drug Administration hasn't tested marijuana for
safety and efficacy and added that the voters shouldn't be able to
circumvent this process.

"There are no other medications that people vote on," he

If the measure passes, however, Humble said his department would
implement the system in a fair and efficient way.

In the Secretary of State's Office publicity pamphlet, five county
sheriffs and 11 county attorneys state their opposition to Proposition

"If this proposition passes, a cottage industry of physician
recommendations, caregivers and pot shops will spring up overnight in
our communities," their statement says.

Torgerson said the proposition's detractors lack the unique
perspective that she and others share.

"I'm not mad at them; they just don't know," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt