Politics

Marijuana Initiatives: a United States Roundup

| by Reason Foundation

This week an initiative that would legalize medical use of marijuana qualified for the ballot in Arizona:

The initiative would allow terminally and seriously ill patients suffering from specified diseases or conditions to use marijuana with their doctor's approval. It also allows for state authorities to add diseases or conditions to that list. The initiative creates a registry system for patients and caregivers and establishes penalties for false statements and fraudulent IDs.

Patients would have to procure their medicine at a regulated medical marijuana dispensary unless they live more than 25 miles away from a dispensary. In that case, patients or their caregivers could grow up to 12 plants. No caregiver could grow for more than five patients. Patients could possess up to 2.5 ounces.

Sixty-five percent of Arizona voters endorsed medical marijuana back in 1996 (the same year California became the first state to let patients use the drug), but the state legislature overturned the initiative. In 1998 Arizonans voted to reinstate the measure, but it never took effect because of a drafting error. The initiative purported to let doctors "prescribe" rather than "recommend" marijuana, a legally fatal mistake because prescriptions are regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

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In other marijuana initiative news (mostly courtesy of the Drug War Chronicle):

  • The latest poll shows support for California's legalization initiative dipping below 50 percent, but opponents are still outnumbered by eight points, with 10 percent undecided.
  • A new survey finds that 52 percent of Washington voters agree with the idea of "removing state civil and criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana," which is what a ballot initiative whose supporters are still gathering signatures would do.
  • An initiative that would eliminate municipal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana has qualified for the ballot in Detroit.
  • A recent poll finds that 54 percent of Texans think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes (compared to national support of 60 percent to 75 percent, depending on the phrasing); half of them (27 percent) think it should be legal for recreational use as well (compared to more than 40 percent of Americans generally).

 [Thanks to Suzanne Wills for the Texas tip.]