Drug Law

Arizona Poised to Pass Medical Marijuana Initiative

| by Reason Foundation

By Jacob Sullum


Whether or not Californians legalize recreational use of marijuana the week after next, Arizonans seem poised to make theirs the 15th state to legalize medical use. The Drug War Chronicle reports that Proposition 203, which would allow patients to with specified medical conditions to use cannabis for symptom relief, was supported by 54 percent of registered voters in a Rocky Mountain Poll taken last week. The initiative would allow patients with doctor's recommendations to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, which they would obtain from state-licensed, nonprofit dispensaries. The measure lists a dozen qualifying conditions—cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, Chrohn's disease, Alzheimer's, wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, and severe muscle spasms—and authorizes the state health department to add more. Patients who live more than 25 miles from the nearest dispensary could grow their own marijuana or designate a caregiver to grow it for them.

Assuming Prop. 203 passes, it will be the third time Arizona voters have approved medical marijuana. The first initiative, passed in 1996 (the same year Californians approved medical marijuana), was overridden by the state legislature. Two years later Arizonans voted to override the state legislature, but the initiative erroneously authorized doctors to "prescribe" marijuana rather than "recommend" it—a practice that would have left them vulnerable to sanctions (including loss of prescribing privileges) under the Controlled Substances Act.

South Dakotans, who nearly approved medical marijuana in 2006, also will vote on the issue in November.