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Medical marijuana proposition too close to call

A ballot measure allowing medical marijuana was too close to call.

Unofficial returns Nov. 2 showed Proposition 203 trailing by a narrow margin.

Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona Marijuana Policy Project, the main group supporting the measure, said later returns could still pull Proposition 203 ahead.

“I think the right votes will come in,” he said.

The measure’s detractors also were confident.

Carloyn Short, chairwoman of Keep AZ Drug Free, said she believed Proposition 203 would fail, adding that she was pleased that her grassroots movement had managed to make vote so close.

“I am just heartened to get our message out there,” Short said.

Proposition 203 would allow a qualifying person with a doctor’s recommendation to receive 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from licensed dispensaries. Qualifying conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and chronic pain.

The measure calls for the Arizona Department of Health Services to register and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers to use marijuana or grow up to 12 plants if they live far from a dispensary. The department would also regulate the dispensaries, of which there would be one for every 10 pharmacies.

Arizona voters approved medical marijuana use in 1996, but the measure never took effect because it would have required a doctor’s prescription, which is illegal under the federal law.

Proposition 203 instead would require a doctor’s recommendation, which have the same weight as a prescription but only on a state level.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year that the government wouldn’t prosecute marijuana users who comply with state laws.

The Arizona Marijuana Policy Project, the main group supporting Proposition 203, raised $778,000. Three-quarters of that amount, or $579,000, came from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington D.C.-based lobby involved in many state marijuana laws.

Keep AZ Drug Free, 203?s chief opponent, raised more than $20,000 toward their cause. The Arizona Cardinals donated nearly half of that amount with a $10,000 contribution.

The proposition garnered little support from Arizona leaders. Five county sheriffs and 11 county attorneys state their opposition in the Secretary of State’s Office publicity pamphlet.

U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., joined at a news conference by Republican Reps. Trent Franks and John Shadegg, denounced the proposition.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, also stated his opposition but added his department would implement the system in a fair and efficient manner.

While marijuana in Arizona remained in doubt, voters in California, which already allows medical marijuana, defeated a measure to legalize the recreational use of the drug, according to media projections.

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