Action in Arizona
Recent passage of Proposition 200 in the state of Arizona has some cannabis
activists predicting the end of marijuana prohibition in the US by the turn of
the century. While the measure only covers medically proven uses of cannabis and
other controlled substances, it is clearly a huge victory towards a complete end
to the American War on Drugs.
By Jas Tynan
??? Proposition 200 (the Drug Medicalization Prevention and Control Act)
was passed by 65% of Arizona voters in the November 1996 election. Although Republican
Governor J Fife Symington III threatened to veto the bill, he ended up signing
the measure into law as scheduled.
??? The passage of Prop 200 means probation instead of jail for minor
possession and allows for medical prescribing of marijuana or any other Schedule 1 drug
under state laws. Doctors must provide evidence to support the treatment and have the
prescription approved by a second doctor.
??? The law also provides for the probation of currently jailed non-violent
drug offenders, and the State Department of Corrections estimates that about 1,000 inmates
will be eligible for release under the new law. The liberation has yet
to take place and state authorities are taking their time, but all new non-violent drug
offenders in Arizona will be sent to treatment first instead of jail.
Drug Czar McCaffrey
??? US government drug czar Barry McCaffrey said “any doctors
prescribing any schedule one narcotics in Arizona will be arrested and charged. It is in
blatant violation of federal laws and we intend to enforce those laws.”
??? “The state and federal governments need to listen to the
people,” says AZ4NORML board member Glaucoma Jim. Jim has a cannabis prescription
from Holland and has helped seven other patients make the trip towards greater comfort
??? “The people of Arizona have spoken! They decided it is okay for me
to keep from going blind and for people with AIDS to eat. Patients need their medicine and
the politicians need to do their jobs and serve the people. I take this very
??? Jim sees the new law as the beginning of re-legalization across the
country. “People still can’t believe that this is happening in Arizona,” he
said, “We’re the conservative state, one of the last states to pass a Martin Luther
King holiday. Well guess what, it happened and it’s only just a start. The other states
will be following the example set by us and California and pot will be completely legal in
the US by the year 2000.”
US National NORML
??? US National NORML Publications Director Paul Armentano feels the
momentum in the battle for legalization has made an important shift , but that the law in
Arizona is more symbolic than anything else. “This is one of the first times in
American history that there has been a such a clear rejection by the people of the
American government’s philosophy of ?do drugs so time,'” Armentano explained.
??? “It’s a radical initiative that should give a mandate to
Washington ? that is the message. However, there are two separate issues here: the
availability of medical marijuana for seriously ill people, which the California
initiative addressed very well, and favoring treatment over incarceration when drug
arrests are made. Both issues seem to be important to the American people, but NORML’s
focus has to stick with marijuana. These are two winnable issues, but should be
A 1983 Arizona state law allows residents to purchase both a license and tax stamps to
possess and sell marijuana. According to a November 1, 1995 Arizona court ruling, citizens
may not be prosecuted criminally for possessing or dealing in marijuana if they are
licensed by the state.
Based upon this decision, members of Arizona NORML are hoping to work with local officials
to establish “tolerance zones” where patients with marijuana prescriptions may
have them filled by licensed marijuana dealers. There are about six licensed marijuana
dealers presently operating in Arizona.
Several efforts to repeal the marijuana and controlled substances tax have gone through
state legislative bodies, but to date all have failed to become law. Richard Davis,
curator of the Hemp Museum, the state licensed marijuana dealer that was busted selling
near the 1996 Super Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, finally begins his trial in February.
The state’s appeal of the dismissal of AZ4NORML president Peter Wilson’s marijuana
possession case has failed. The case was dismissed because Wilson had paid the tax and the
judge ruled further charges would be double jeopardy.
Phoenix lawyer Michael Walz represents both Wilson and Davis.
Dr Jeffrey Singer
??? Dr Jeffrey Singer, a Phoenix surgeon and the main medical proponent for
Proposition 200, focuses more on the medical issue. “I think what the people are
saying is that they are tired of the government regulating every aspect of their
lives, and if people want to self-medicate, that’s really their own business,” said
??? No prescriptions have been written so far, but Singer hopes doctors
will come forward and that will change. “We are setting up a legal defense fund to
help protect doctors that wish to write prescriptions,” he said. “We expect the
law to be fought out and upheld in the courts, so we want to prepare for that. This may be
just the beginning of a long battle, but it is an enormous step in a positive
Peter Wilson of AZ4NORML
??? Some of the people behind the proposition are moving onto other states
to work on similar legislation, “but AZ4NORML is here to keep fighting the
battle,” president Peter Wilson said. “This is obviously a great thing, but
efforts will still remain the same. We will work towards the complete legalization of
marijuana use by adults, and to inform the public about what the real story is along the
The End of Prohibition
??? What Arizona’s legal situation all means to the average pot smoker in
Arizona remains to be seen, but most in the cannabis community hope 1997 finally marks the
beginning of the end of prohibition.
??? “We just have to keep on believing,” said Arizona State
University student Tony Armijo, “in ourselves and in the planet. The good herb will
be freed again. You just have to keep the faith. Whether the propositions or the tax
stamps will really change my life directly remains to be seen, but in the least, they
provide a long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel for re-legalization in
For more info…
? To become a licensed cannabis dealer in the state of Arizona, call the Arizona
Department of Revenue (602) 542-4576.
? AZ4NORML can be reached by mail at PO Box 50434, Phoenix, AZ 85076; tel (602)