Arizona voters have twice approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It's back on the ballot for a third time as Prop. 203.
We recommend a "yes" vote on Prop. 203.
The law has never gone into effect because the proposition language was too broad and because the federal Drug Enforcement Administration warned that it would prosecute any "prescription" under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Maybe the third time's the charm. The language of the initiative has been polished.
And, for the record, the Obama administration, which is focusing on criminal drug-enforcement efforts, last year sent a memo encouraging federal prosecutors not to prosecute those who distribute marijuana "in accordance with state law."
Prop. 203 would allow doctors to recommend that patients with certain specific conditions receive a card from the state Department of Health Services authorizing them to buy up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from a state-regulated, nonprofit dispensary.
The initiative would permit only a total of 120 nonprofit dispensaries in the entire state; each one could grow an unlimited amount of marijuana on site and at one other location.
The conditions Prop. 203 specifically lists that can be treated with medical marijuana include AIDS and HIV, side effects of chemotherapy treatments and chronic pain.
Opponents of Prop. 203 say California's law, enacted in 1996, and its medical-marijuana dispensaries have spawned illegitimate dispensaries and a wave of related crime. Five Arizona county sheriffs, including Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, and nine county attorneys, including Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, filed a statement with the Secretary of State's Office opposing Prop. 203. Their bottom-line objection is that increased availability of marijuana "worsens crime problems and puts public safety severely at risk. Pot shops are targeted by robbers, and increased crime, drug abuse, marijuana-impaired drivers and vehicular fatalities involving marijuana use flourish."
We regard this position as overstated and alarmist. Dispensaries in Arizona would be more limited in number, and they would be state-regulated. And the people holding cards authorizing their use of medical marijuana would be patients, not criminals.
Proponents respond that Arizona's plan more restrictive than the laws in California and Colorado, allowing fewer dispensaries, limiting the conditions for which marijuana could be used, and requiring patients to register with the state.
It also would provide for a database to help assure that patients don't dispensary-hop to get more marijuana than what is medically indicated.
On Prop. 203, Arizona voters already have spoken, and repeatedly. Vote "yes" again: Suffering patients must have access to every viable option for treatment, including medical marijuana.
Arizona Daily Star
Under measure, doctors could recommend certain patients receive authorization to buy marijuana