Pubdate: Sun, 26 Sep 2010
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2010 The Arizona Republic
Author: Michelle Ye Hee Lee


Editor's note: This story is the third in a series explaining the 10
propositions that will appear on the Nov. 2 general-election ballot.

PROPOSITION 203: Arizona Medical Marijuana Act

Proposition 203 would legalize marijuana for medicinal

Licensed physicians would be able to recommend medical marijuana to
patients with debilitating medical conditions, which include cancer,
glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and Alzheimer's disease. Other
conditions can be added to the approved list by the Arizona Department
of Health Services through a public-petition process.

Patients would register for ID cards with the department and receive
up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every 14 days from non-profit
dispensaries or cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants if they live 25
miles or farther from a dispensary. The department would be
responsible for implementation.

There would be about 120 dispensaries allowed, proportionate to the
number of pharmacies in the state.

BACKGROUND: Prop. 203 is the only initiative that made it on the
ballot this year through the citizens-initiative process.

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

In 1996, voters approved a ballot proposal that allowed the use of
medical marijuana. But state lawmakers gutted the law after federal
authorities threatened to revoke the licenses of doctors who
prescribed marijuana.

In 1998, voters rejected a ballot attempt that would have required
Congress or federal government to OK the use of medical marijuana
before doctors would prescribe it.

In 2002, Arizona voters rejected an effort to legalize possession of
small amounts of marijuana and make it available for free to patients
who have cancer and other diseases.

Fourteen states have legalized medical marijuana, including California
and New Mexico.

SUPPORTERS: Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, which is largely
funded by Marijuana Policy Project, the Washington, D.C.-based
lobbying group backing the Arizona effort; Pima County Democratic
Party. Arizona medical organizations have not come out in support of
Prop. 203, but campaign manager Andrew Myers said the national
chapters of organizations that had endorsed using marijuana as
medicine support the measure, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma
Society and the American Public Health Association

PRO ARGUMENTS: Supporters say marijuana is a natural, safe and
effective substitute for painkillers, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin,
commonly prescribed to patients with severe illnesses. Long-term use
of these medications can lead to addiction and physical dependence.

Proponents say people can die from overdosing on prescription pills,
but they can't die from overdosing on marijuana.

Marinol, a synthetic THC pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, is available by prescription to treat nausea and
appetite loss for cancer and AIDS patients. THC is the active
ingredient in marijuana. Supporters say there are other active
ingredients in the marijuana plant that could be used as medicine. If
Prop. 203 passes, all parts of a marijuana plant and its seeds would
be legal to use.

Prop. 203 is often compared to medical-marijuana measures in other
states. Proponents argue that Prop. 203 is written with more
regulation than other states' laws, and that it has stricter limits
for the diseases and symptoms that would qualify patients to receive

OPPONENTS: Keep AZ Drug Free, led by Carolyn Short, its chairman. The
campaign has the support of numerous Arizona politicians, including
Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jon Kyl and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
In addition to the state health department, several drug-addiction and
- -prevention organizations have spoken out against the proposition,
including Arizona Addiction Treatment Program Inc., Arizona Students
Against Destructive Decisions and the Yavapai County Methamphetamine
Advisory Task Force.

CON ARGUMENTS: Opponents consider this measure a backdoor way to
legalize marijuana with a facade of patient care, because it's backed
by the Marijuana Policy Project. They refer to the project's website,
which quotes the organization's mission as increasing support for
"non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies."

Although most opponents acknowledge that marijuana could provide
medical relief for patients with serious diseases, they call for
proponents to get marijuana FDA-approved for safety and efficacy. They
say marijuana should be subject to the same federal oversight and
regulation as other legal-prescription medication.

One of the main arguments among opponents is that drug abuse will
increase across the state if this measure passes. They say Prop. 203
has the same loopholes that allow people without debilitating diseases
to gain access to marijuana. They cite instances of people faking
pains for marijuana in California, where physicians can recommend
marijuana orally or in writing, with no established quantity limits.

Opponents say passing Prop. 203 would lead to increased underage drug
abuse, because a qualifying patient under 18 would be eligible to
receive medical marijuana if his or her parents submit a written
certification from two physicians, after a physician explains the
risks and benefits of medical marijuana to the parents.

They also say Prop. 203 would give protections to marijuana users that
other drug users don't have. Prop. 203 would prohibit employers from
discriminating against registered users in hiring or termination;
schools from refusing to enroll registered users; and landlords from
denying leases to registered users.

Sources: Proposition 203 ballot initiative language; Andrew Myers; 
Carolyn Short; Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public 
Policy; Arizona Republic research.
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