Vote 2010: Arizona to Vote on Medical Marijuana

Next month, Arizona voters will decide whether to legalize medical marijuana.

Our state is among four that have initiatives on the ballot this Fall, Proposition 203.

South Dakota and Oregon also will vote on whether to legalize medical marijuana, but California will vote on a proposition that would pretty much legalize retail sales of the drug for recreational use.

Right now 14 states and the District of Columbia already allow medical use.

“It does give an aura of usefulness, which previously in every public presentation by any official agency was always very negative,” said Criminologist Peter Reuter.

Proposition 203 is the only Arizona ballot measure backed by a popular movement, the other initiatives got there by the efforts of the legislature.

– Article from Fox 11.

Medical marijuana has long Arizona history

by Joanna Dodder Nellans, The Daily Courier

Medical marijuana’s history in Arizona dates back 14 years.

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’ recommendations.

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.

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 process

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 history.

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 dispensaries.

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 marijuana.

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 malpractice.

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 place.

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 workplace.

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.

– Article from The Daily Courier.