Arizona update: politicians vs the voters

Cannabis Canada Issue #9 (summer 97) – Smoke Signals (arizona update)


Politicians Versus The Voters


Governor Fife Symington

: rampant opposition to the will of the people.



When 65 per cent of Arizona voters pulled the “yes” lever for Proposition

200, many thought the fight for medical marijuana was over in the desert.

Yet politicians in the Barry Goldwater state think they know better than

the people who elected them, and are maneuvering to block enforcement of

the measure.

Government vs



Proposition 200 allows for the prescription of Schedule 1 drugs to serious

or terminally ill patients in Arizona, as long as two doctors agree that

such action would be beneficial.

Despite popular

support for Prop 200, the Arizona House of Representatives passed Bill

2518 in mid-April, which effectively blocks the enactment of the Proposition

until the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves medical usage

of the substances in question, including marijuana.

Conservative lawmakers

heralded 2518 as a way to keep “pothead doctors” from writing scripts for

the herb, until a more permanent anti-pot countermeasure could be passed.

Some liberals who voted for the bill said they did so because enacting

Prop 200 would have placed the state of Arizona in violation of US federal



Research vs Action


“The issue is a bi-partisan one,” says Victor Tawlak from the Arizona State

Senate Democratic minority office. “Democrats, Republicans and independents

alike are all for marijuana being used for medical purposes. It’s the wording

of the law that is causing division. As it stands right now, the FDA is

holding a moderate view on the issue. They are going to do research on

the issue. If the FDA does find some benefits for medical use, the state

laws really won’t matter.”


Area activists feel the FDA wouldn’t be doing the research at all if so

much publicity had not been generated from Prop 200 and a similar ballot

measure that passed in California, but that research is not what the voters

of Arizona asked for.


“The politicians are ignoring the people that put them into office,” said

registered Phoenix voter TJ Woodward. “They’re basically saying that the

people of Arizona don’t know enough to think for themselves. Yet on that

basis, the politicians themselves don’t deserve to be in office. We ?ignorant

voters’ are the ones that put them into power. I think we need to do something

to remind these bureaucrats how democracy is supposed to work. We passed

the proposition and it is their duty to respect our wishes.”

Petitioning for



The people behind the Proposition 200 effort have started an offshoot group

called The People Have Spoken in an attempt to gather some 56,000 signatures

by July 20 to block enactment of House Bill 2518.


Dr Jeffrey Singer of the new group echoed Woodward’s sentiment, saying

“Bill 2518 is a slap in the face for the democratic process. It’s really

sad that the government has no respect for what the people clearly want.

Hopefully these new petitions will finally make them do their jobs and

enact 200.”


Although it has received major local press coverage, Arizona Governor Fife

Symington’s office claimed to be unaware of the petition effort at press


Ignorance vs Truth


Republican Senator John Kaites, a proponent of Bill 2815, feels voters

were duped into passing the proposition and has joined forces with fellow

Republicans to fight the petition effort. “This time, we’re ready. We do

not intend to leave the people uninformed this time,” he said. “People

need to know all of the facts before they make a decision. The ballot wording

was put in a way that people weren’t really clear on what it meant.”


When asked why their conservative party didn’t mount an organized effort

to stop the initial proposition before the November election, Kaites side-stepped

the subject. “The people were duped by the proposition effort. Now is the

time for people to realize the complete facts of the issue. That is why

we passed the bill.”


Research by Arizona State University professor Bruce Merrill in February

of this year indicated that eighty-seven percent of Arizonans queried thought

doctors should not be able to prescribe “street drugs” (whatever those

are) until they are approved by the FDA.


Special Assistant County Attorney Barnett Lotstein cited the poll as evidence

of an unclear proposition. “Our office’s objective at the present time

is to follow the law, by requiring that the drugs have FDA approval before

they can be prescribed as medicine. We are working within the community

to make sure the people know the whole story this time.”

First Arizona,

then the USA


Those who supported the proposition and now the petition may simply want

doctors to be able to prescribe Schedule 1 drugs in Arizona, but it is

also likely that they are hoping to generate enough publicity to force

the federal government to address the medical marijuana issue, and even

the issue of cannabis prohibition as a whole.

Paul Armentano of

the American NORML office in Washington, DC explained, “The real significance

of the Arizona initiative is that it directly challenges the federal government’s

position that marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance – defined

as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in treatment.

The passage of recent initiatives legalizing the medical use of marijuana

clearly illustrate that a majority of the American people disagree with

the government’s placement of marijuana as a Schedule 1 prohibited drug.”


Regardless of the angle, the result is some of the most significant progress

on the American legalization front this decade. Current events in Arizona

are contributing to what may become a permanent set-back to the American

federal government’s vicious War on Drugs.

By Jas Tynan





??? Proposition

200 also provides for the probation of currently jailed non-violent drug

offenders, yet although the State Department of Corrections has estimated

that about 1000 inmates are eligible for release under the new law, none

have been released.


The Arizona Department of Corrections is submitting a list of inmates to

the State Board of Executive Clemency, which is to review the list and

determine which of the prisoners will be freed. No specific time-line has

been set as of yet, but the Corrections Office has hinted at an upcoming

review date.


For more Info

Contact AZ4NORML

at PO Box 50434, Phoenix, Arizona 85076; tel (602) 730-0032 or (602) 395-0353;

email [email protected];