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Arizona voters get another chance to legalize medical marijuana

Arizonans will get the chance to legalize the use of medical marijuana yet again this November – the fourth such opportunity in the past 15 years.

The Medical Marijuana initiative became the first to qualify for the 2010 general election ballot after the Secretary of State’s Office verified on June 1 that supporters had turned in the required number of signatures from registered voters.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project collected 252,000 signatures on petitions that were submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office in March, even though the group needed only 153,365 signatures to qualify the measure.

Supporters of the initiative said some Arizonans are suffering from medical conditions that are most effectively treated with marijuana, voters have shown they support medical marijuana, and the initiative heading to the ballot avoids mistakes made by some states with similar laws.

“This would provide relief for Arizona’s most vulnerable and ill residents,” said Andrew Myers, a spokesman for the medical marijuana campaign.

The initiative’s opponents, however, said legalizing medical marijuana would increase the use of illegal drugs and that smoking marijuana is no substitute for medicine.

Doug Hebert, a former DEA agent and spokesman for The Partnership for a Drug-Free America Arizona Affiliate, said a host of problems will arise if voters approve the initiative.

Because The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is a non-profit group, it cannot support or oppose the initiative. Yet Hebert said the motives of those supporting the initiative appear to be other than altruistic.

“They’re preying on voter sympathy for very ill people, because they want to smoke marijuana,” Hebert said.

Hebert said there are several reasons the initiative would likely lead to increased criminality and drug use, as well as complicate law enforcement’s efforts.

“If they wanted to keep this above ground, you’d think they’d want law enforcement to have a role,” Hebert said. “But they specifically wrote into the initiative that the only agency that can monitor the dispensaries is the (Department of Health Services), and they can’t make an inspection without giving notice first.”

Hebert pointed out that the proposed law also prevents any doctor from being subject to scrutiny for the way they would prescribe marijuana and that the determination of eligibility for medical marijuana would not have to happen in-person, which could lead to diagnoses being dispensed over the internet.

Hebert said the initiative also infringes on the long-established right of employers to keep a drug-free workplace, and causes permissive attitudes toward drug use, particularly among kids.

Arizona voters, though, have approved similar measures in the past. Polling conducted by The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project shows 65 percent of Arizonans support the legalization of marijuana for medical use.

In 1996 voters approved a medical marijuana initiative, which was later overturned by the Legislature. Voters then approved a similar initiative in 1998, but it was invalidated because of a drafting error.

Myers said the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project drafted the law to avoid previous mistakes and to account for the lessons learned by the 14 other states that have medical marijuana laws.

“We could look at what works, and what doesn’t,” Myers said. “We wrote it to be as transparent as possible, and to have no negative impact.”

The Arizona initiative caps the number of dispensaries at 120 to avoid the problems California ran into by allowing an indefinite number of places to obtain medical marijuana. It also contains specific zoning provisions, which Myers said will keep marijuana dispensaries in commercial or industrial areas – and away from schools.

Myers said the initiative also specifies that people cannot smoke marijuana at the dispensaries, which has created hangouts for pot smokers in some states that permit medical marijuana.

Finally, the initiative outlines a specific set of medical conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. California’s medical marijuana law, meanwhile, allows doctors to prescribe pot for any reason.

“Marijuana is extremely effective for treating three main symptoms: nausea, pain from nerve damage and tremors,” Myers said.

The main beneficiaries of the proposed law would be HIV/AIDS patients and those with cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma. Myers said that in cases of severe nerve damage-related pain, using marijuana can allow doctors to reduce the use of powerful narcotic painkillers by two-thirds or more, which can increase life expectancy in those patients who would otherwise put themselves at risk of liver and organ damage.

Myers said the other benefit of the proposed law is that it would simplify law enforcement, by drawing a clear line between those who can legally use marijuana and those who cannot, whereas those who would be candidates for medical marijuana might seek it illegally.

7 comments

  1. According to their federal tax returns, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America showed that they had received several million dollars worth of funding from major pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol corporations including American Brands (Jim Beam whiskey), Philip Morris (Marlboro and Virginia Slims cigarettes, Miller beer), Anheuser Busch (Budweiser, Michelob, Busch beer), R.J. Reynolds (Camel, Salem, Winston cigarettes), as well as pharmaceutical firms Bristol Meyers-Squibb, Merck & Company and Procter & Gamble. From 1997 it has discontinued any direct fiscal association with tobacco and alcohol suppliers, although it still receives donations from pharmaceutical companies. I’d like to suggest to Doug Herbert that with friends like that he shouldn’t be pointing fingers at the medical marijuana movement for being other than “alturistic.”

    It’s abundantly clear to any that care to do the research that marijuana is indeed medicine and was for almost 5,000 years before it became a DRUG in 1937. Also, for those who care to look, you will find that marijuana is a safe medicine and it is literally impossible to overdose no matter by what means or how much is taken. This is not true of alcohol, tobacco, or even coffee or aspirin which are far more dangerous according to the government’s own figures.

    I have to believe that it is well past time for some citizen led sanity.

  2. Prohibitionists dance hand in hand with every possible type of criminal one can imagine.

    An unholy alliance of ignorance, greed and hate which works to destroy all our hard fought freedoms, wealth and security.

    We will always have adults who are too immature to responsibly deal with tobacco alcohol, heroin amphetamines, cocaine, various prescription drugs and even food. Our answer to them should always be: “Get a Nanny, and stop turning the government into one for the rest of us!”

    Nobody wants to see an end to prohibition because they want to use drugs. They wish to see proper legalized regulation because they are witnessing, on a daily basis, the dangers and futility of prohibition. ‘Legalized Regulation’ won’t be the complete answer to all our drug problems, but it’ll greatly ameliorate the crime and violence on our streets, and only then can we provide effective education and treatment.

    The whole nonsense of ‘a disaster will happen if we end prohibition’ sentiment sums up the delusional ‘chicken little’ stance of those who foolishly insist on continuing down this blind alley. As if a disaster isn’t already happening. As if prohibition has ever worked.

    To support prohibition is such a strange mind-set. In fact, It’s outrageous insanity! –Literally not one prohibitionist argument survives scrutiny. Not one!

    The only people that believe prohibition is working are the ones making a living by enforcing laws in it’s name, and those amassing huge fortunes on the black market profits. This situation is wholly unsustainable, and as history has shown us, conditions will continue to deteriorate until we finally, just like our forefathers, see sense and revert back to tried and tested methods of regulation. None of these substances, legal or illegal, are ever going to go away, but we CAN decide to implement policies that do far more good than harm.

    During alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on treatment. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

    In an underground drug market, criminals and terrorists, needing an incentive to risk their own lives and liberty, grossly inflate prices which are further driven higher to pay those who ‘take a cut’ like corrupt law enforcement officials who are paid many times their wages to look the other way. This forces many users to become dealers themselves in order to afford their own consumption. This whole vicious circle turns ad infinitum. You literally couldn’t dream up a worse scenario even if your life depended on it. For the second time within a century, we’ve carelessly lost “love’s labour,” and, “with the hue of dungeons and the scowl of night,” have wantonly created our own worst nightmare.

    So should the safety and freedom of the rest of us be compromised because of the few who cannot control themselves?

    Many of us no longer think it should!

  3. Do the right thing AGAIN, Arizona citizens. Vote in favor of this initiative.

  4. Please don’t let those of us struggling with lifelong, genetically determined mental illnesses fall through the cracks on this. Panic Attack with Agoraphobia runs rampant in my late father’s side of the family. We are also seeing some autistic features but without language/communication deficits. I was so terrified of social encounters that I vomited before any event from the age of two to eighteen. Then it turned into migraines and colitis so severe that an intestinal hernia ruptured. A year and a half into my doctoral program at UCLA I couldn’t get out of the apartment for five weeks, lost my financial aid, left college and began a downward spiral into jobs that I hoped would turn into environments where I could work alone. Twelve years ago I was working at a job that allowed me to microfilm and organize the records section in a room by myself. My supervisors tried to pull me into their chaotic rush projects and I walked out. I immediately started looking for another job and my psychiatrist became angry with me for the first and only time. He told me that I’d get into a new stressful situation, the suicide attempts would start again and this time I might suceed: it was over, and I should apply for Social Security. That was 12 years ago. I’ve had every medication and I keep getting worse. I can’t keep my house clean and taking a bath reminds me that I will be leaving the house and I shut down. Sometimes I don’t bathe for 6 weeks. My illness is due to a flawed gene: it is not trauma induced so no placebo behavioral therapy works. So is THIS sick enough for me to use marijuana in my home and to never drive once I have smoked it for the day?
    Am I sick enough to try medical marijuana in the hope that I can vacuum every 2 weeks and take a bath at least twice a week? I’m joining this organization and I’m donating twenty dollars out of my $792 a month benefits because I am trying like hell to NOT put my mother through the agony of living past my suicide. And I don’t want any advice from idiots who know nothing about genetics so don’t contact me. I am getting about 1/50th the help marijuana would give by smoking legal herbs but they are hard on the lungs as they are very dry. Don’t let people like me get shoved to the side; there are countless ways to suffer in life.

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