Pubdate: Wed, 17 Nov 2010
Source: Eastern Arizona Courier (AZ)
Copyright: 2010 Eastern Arizona Courier
Author: Jon Johnson


A measure that will allow patients with terminal, debilitating or
chronic diseases to purchase and use cannabis as medicine has passed.

Proposition 203, the medical marijuana proposition, was initially down
by more than 7,200 votes on election day. After fluctuating little
throughout the week as early and provisional ballots were counted, the
votes in favor suddenly surged Thursday and Friday. Early Friday
evening, the proposition was passing by 4,421 votes out of about 1.67
million cast.

The Maricopa County Recorder's Office had about 11,000 ballots still
to count after its deadline Friday. All of the ballots in Arizona's 14
other counties had been counted.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell held a press conference
Saturday and announced all of the votes had been tabulated.
Proposition 203 was the most voted on proposition and passed by 4,341
votes, which made Arizona the 15th state where patients may use
medical marijuana.

The vote was close in most of the counties but only actually passed in
Pima, Santa Cruz and Coconino. It passed by more than 44,000 votes in
Pima County, and that was enough to push it through. In Graham County,
the proposition failed by a two to one margin.

Backers of the legislation say it will stop those in dire need from
becoming criminals because of their necessary medication. Opponents
say the measure is nothing more than a backdoor to legalization of pot
for everybody - sick or not.

The proposition will go into effect after the general election canvass
of votes Nov. 29. The Arizona Department of Health Services will then
have 120 days from the canvass to finalize rules for implementation.
The department is expected to begin reviewing dispensary and patient
applications by April 2011.

History of Marijuana Use

Cannabis has been used as medicine throughout the world for thousands
of years. Writings from 2737 B.C. list Emperor Shen Neng of China was
prescribing marijuana tea for the treatment of gout, rheumatism,
malaria and poor memory. The use of the drug as medicine spread
throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and India, where it was also
used for religious purposes and for stress relief. By the mid-1800s,
marijuana was found in a variety of elixirs and medicines in the
United States, available by prescription and over the counter, for
treatment of several ailments, including pain relief, nausea relief
and as a cough suppressant.

In 1914, the first federal drug laws were passed, and opiates and
cocaine were made illegal. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act essentially
made the use of marijuana illegal and made it difficult to obtain for
medicinal purposes. The act passed Congress despite the protest from
the American Medical Association. In 1969, part of the act was ruled
unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court case Leary v.
United States because the act required self-incrimination, which
violated the Fifth Amendment. In response, Congress passed the Control
Substances Act as part two of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention
and Control Act of 1970, which repealed the 1937 Act and outlawed
possession of pot.

In 1996, California became the first state to allow medical marijuana
use. Arizona also passed a proposition in 1996 (by a vote of 65
percent to 35 percent) to allow patients to use medical marijuana but
it was not enacted because it stated doctors could prescribe the drug.
The United States Drug Administration threatened to punish doctors who
wrote prescriptions for marijuana. The 2010 proposition only requires
a doctor's recommendation for a patient to obtain a medical marijuana
registry card. Doctors cannot be punished for recommending marijuana,
but insurance companies will not pay for a patient's pot like they due
for prescribed medications such as Oxycontin. In 2009, Attorney
General Eric Holder announced that federal prosecutors would not go
after medical marijuana users and dispensaries that abide by state

While California led the way for medicinal marijuana, it is still
illegal for those who use it for recreational purposes.

Proposition 19 in California would have legalized possession of an
ounce of cannabis for anyone age 21 and over. It would have been made
pot subject to state taxes, but the proposition failed by a vote of
about 56 percent to 44 percent. California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger (R) previously signed a bill into law, however, that
decriminalizes possession of up to one ounce of pot from a misdemeanor
to an infraction. Under the bill, those caught will an ounce or less
will be fined $100 but will not have an arrest record.

Patients in Arizona who receive a recommendation from a doctor will be
able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of pot from a nonprofit dispensary
every two weeks. There will be a limit of about 124 dispensaries
throughout the state, and, if a patient lives more than 25 miles from
a dispensary, the patient will be allowed to cultivate up to 12 plants
for their own use as long as they are kept in an enclosed, locked facility. 
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