Pubdate: Sat, 09 Oct 2010
Source: Daily Courier (Prescott, AZ)
Copyright: 2010 Prescott Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Joanna Dodder Nellans, The Daily Courier
Note: Reporter Linda Stein contributed to this story.


Medical marijuana's history in Arizona dates back 14

Voters first approved its use in 1996 by a 65-percent margin, but the
Legislature overturned it. That was part of the reason voters approved
another voter initiative in 1998 that prevents the Legislature from
overturning voter-approved initiatives and referendums.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, which led the effort to
get the Prop. 203 medical marijuana measure on the Nov. 2 statewide
ballot, says its poll found exactly the same support in Arizona for
medical marijuana these days, at 65 percent.

The Medical Marijuana Policy Project says thousands of seriously ill
Arizonans are using the drug right now on doctors'

Jon Gettel of Tucson said he's been using pot for medicinal purposes
for a decade to cope with nerve pain caused by a serious car accident.

"I had to learn to walk again," Gettel said. "Medical marijuana was
more effective than serious painkillers such as Oxycontin. I have a
painful neuropathy that marijuana helps me with. It helps me sleep and
improves my mood."

Apparently the drive for medical marijuana is a Western trend; nine of
the 14 states that allow medical pot use are in the West. And some
form of favorable medical marijuana laws have been enacted in a total
of 36 states, according to the Medical Marijuana Policy Project.

The Medical Marijuana Policy Project says restrictions in Arizona's
proposition would avoid many of the pitfalls other states have faced.
For example, it would limit pot dispensaries to a ratio of pharmacies,
which right now would add up to a maximum of 124 dispensaries, Prop.
203 campaign manager Andrew Myers told those attending a Secretary of
State propositions meeting in Prescott recently. And it would be a
felony to give or sell pot to unregulated users, he added.

The measure has a long list of vocal opponents, including all of
Arizona's sheriffs and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

Dr. Ed Gogek, an addiction psychiatrist in Prescott, is another vocal
opponent of Prop. 203. He said three-fourths of the legal users in
California are younger than 40.

The sheriffs and Polk note that people could legally obtain the drug
for a wide variety of reasons, including "severe and chronic pain" and
"severe nausea." Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will
Humble said more than 88 percent of all medical marijuana cardholders
in Montana cite "severe and chronic pain" for their need.

Opponents also note that children could get prescriptions with the
approval of parents and two doctors, although the measure wouldn't
allow pot in schools (or public places or jails).

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that
the average age of its medical marijuana users is 40, and 22 are
minors. Seventy-three percent are men, and 93 percent report using pot
for "severe pain."

The sheriffs and Polk also note that Prop. 203 would allow people to
legally drive or come to work with marijuana "metabolites" in their
system if they were medical marijuana cardholders.

That statement can be misleading, however. The initiative would
require law enforcement and employers to prove impairment instead of
just the presence of metabolites, which can stay in a person's urine
for two to three weeks.

The sheriffs' written statement also asserts that employers could not
fire or discipline people with medical marijuana cards who come to
work and test positive for marijuana.

However, the official Legislative Council analysis in the state
government's propositions publicity pamphlet states that employers
could punish workers who are impaired by pot, or using or carrying it
at work.

Michelle Graye of Tucson, chapter secretary of Arizona 4 NORML
(National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), accuses
Prop. 203 opponents of using "reefer madness tactics" to scare people,
referring to a 1936 cult movie that portrays people going mad on pot.

"We're going on 40 years in a drug war that's been a complete
failure," she said.

(Reporter Linda Stein contributed to this story.)


PROP. 203

Analysis by Arizona Legislative Council

Proposition 203 would allow a "qualifying patient" who has a
"debilitating medical condition" to obtain an "allowable amount of
marijuana" from a "nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary" and to
possess and use the marijuana to treat or alleviate the debilitating
medical condition or symptoms associated with the condition.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) would be required to
adopt and enforce a regulatory system for the distribution of
marijuana for medical use, including a system for approving, renewing
and revoking the registration of qualifying patients, designated
caregivers, nonprofit dispensaries and dispensary agents. The costs of
the regulatory system would be paid from application and renewal fees
collected, civil penalties imposed and private donations received
pursuant to this proposition.

A "qualifying patient" is defined as a person who has been diagnosed
by a physician (a doctor of medicine, osteopathy, naturopathic
medicine or homeopathy) as having one of the following debilitating
medical conditions:

1. Cancer

2. Glaucoma

3. Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus

4. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome

5. Hepatitis C

6. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

7. Crohn's disease

8. Agitation of Alzheimer's disease

9. A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that
produces any of the following:

a. Cachexia or wasting syndrome

b. Severe and chronic pain

c. Severe nausea

d. Seizures (including those characteristic of epilepsy)

e. Severe and persistent muscle spasms (including those characteristic
of multiple sclerosis)

10. Any other medical condition added by DHS through a public petition

In order to register with DHS, a qualifying patient must submit a
signed written certification issued by the physician that states the
physician's professional opinion that the patient is likely to receive
therapeutic or symptom-relieving benefits from the medical use of
marijuana to treat or alleviate a debilitating medical condition

The certification must specify the debilitating medical condition and
must be made in the course of a physician-patient relationship after
the physician has completed a full assessment of the patient's medical

If the qualifying patient is under 18 years of age, the patient's
custodial parent or legal guardian must submit written certifications
from two physicians and the custodial parent or legal guardian must
consent in writing to control the patient's medical use of the marijuana

A qualifying patient who is registered with DHS (or a registered
designated caregiver on behalf of the qualifying patient) may obtain
up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in a 14-day period from a registered
nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary.

If the qualifying patient's home is located more than 25 miles from
the nearest nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary, the patient or
designated caregiver may cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants in an
enclosed, locked facility.

A registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary must be operated
on a not-for-profit basis, but may receive payment for all expenses
incurred in its operation. DHS may not issue more than one nonprofit
medical marijuana dispensary registration certificate for every 10
pharmacy permits issued by the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy under
current law.

The dispensary may cultivate marijuana only in an enclosed, locked
facility and may acquire marijuana from a registered qualifying
patient or designated caregiver if the patient or caregiver is not
compensated for the marijuana.

This proposition specifies various security, record-keeping and
verification requirements relating to the operation of

Proposition 203 would generally provide that any person who acts in
conformity with the requirements of the proposition is not subject to
any governmentally imposed sanction relating to the medical use of

This proposition would prohibit certain discriminatory practices,
including the following:

1. A school or landlord may not refuse to enroll or lease to a person
registered pursuant to this proposition unless failing to do so would
cause the school or landlord to lose a monetary or licensing benefit
under federal law.

2. An employer may not discriminate against a person registered
pursuant to this proposition in hiring, terminating or imposing
employment conditions unless failing to do so would cause the employer
to lose a monetary or licensing benefit under federal law. Further, an
employer may not penalize a qualifying patient registered pursuant to
this proposition for a positive drug test for marijuana, unless the
patient used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana on the employment
premises or during hours of employment.

By its terms, Proposition 203 would not:

1. Authorize a person to undertake any task under the influence of
marijuana that constitutes negligence or professional

2. Authorize possessing or using medical marijuana on a school bus, on
the grounds of a preschool, primary school or high school or in a
correctional facility.

3. Authorize smoking marijuana on public transportation or in a public

4. Authorize operating, navigating or being in actual physical control
of a motor vehicle, aircraft or motorboat while under the influence of
marijuana. A registered qualifying patient would not be considered to
be under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of
marijuana in the person's system that appears in a concentration
insufficient to cause impairment.

5. Require a government medical assistance program or private health
insurer to reimburse a person for costs associated with the medical
use of marijuana.

6. Require an owner of private property to allow the use of marijuana
on that property.

7. Require an employer to allow the ingestion of marijuana in the

8. Prevent a nursing care or other residential or inpatient health
care facility from adopting reasonable restrictions on the provision,
storage and use of marijuana by residents or patients.

Fiscal impact statement

State law requires the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) staff
to prepare a summary of the fiscal impact of certain ballot measures.
Proposition 203 is projected to cost the state Department of Health
Services $600,000 to operate in the first year and $1.5 million in the
second year. Once fully established in the third year, the projected
cost is $3.1 million. Proposition 203 requires this cost to be funded
from application and renewal fees, civil penalties, and private donations.  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D