By "Radical" Russ Belville
PHOENIX — For the fourth time, Arizonans will decide in November whether people with certain ailments should be able to legally use marijuana.
The Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Tuesday that backers of the latest medical marijuana initiative had enough valid signatures on their petitions to be on the ballot. That makes it the first voter-sought measure to qualify.
So far there is no organized opposition. But the record is mixed on how state voters feel about the issue.
Arizonans have approved a similar measure — twice. But that never took effect because of the way it was worded.
The problem with Arizona’s law right now is that it allowed doctors to prescribe any Schedule I substance – including marijuana – but the federal government controls the right of doctors to prescribe controlled substances. If an Arizona doctor prescribes marijuana, the feds will revoke his license to prescribe anything. Thus, no doctors have ever prescribed medical marijuana. The other states learned from this and made their medical marijuana laws specifically require only a “recommendation”, not a “prescription”.
Funny how one little word can keep Arizona’s medical marijuana patients without their medicine for fourteen years.
This new version, if approved, would allow doctors to recommend that patients with certain conditions use marijuana. That recommendation would entitle the patient to a card from the Arizona Department of Health Services allowing them to purchase up to 2½ ounces of marijuana every two weeks from a state-regulated nonprofit dispensary.
Those living at least 25 miles from one of those sites would be entitled to grow their own.
Or, if you read that the other way, those living within 25 miles of a dispensary are NOT ALLOWED to grow their own, but MUST purchase it from the dispensary. This is so the dispensaries can be “viable”… after all, it is so difficult to stay in business when you’re selling marijuana.
Don’t take my sarcastic word for it - hear it from the Arizona MPP Campaign Director, Andrew Myers, discussing the need for this “halo” that encompasses all the patients within 25 miles of the dispensary, who won’t be able to grow their own and must purchase from only that particular dispensary:
Download audio file (MPP Andrew Meyers – Halo makes dispensaries viable.mp3)
Regardless, it is important that the initiative pass so sick and disabled people are no longer prosecuted for their medical use. But this “halo” requirement is an unnecessary hurdle to force patients to clear. Many patients are on fixed incomes and should not be denied the right to cultivate their own medicine simply because they must live in assisted housing in a city, where dispensaries are likely to be plentiful. A medical cannabis consumer should not be locked in to one supplier based on his or her geographic location.
Why should a patient in the boonies outside Flagstaff be allowed to cultivate his or her own cannabis at substantially lower cost while a patient in a group home in Phoenix is forced to pay $10-$15/gram dispensary prices?
It’s my personal hope that this initiative passes and then angry urban patients realized they’re getting ripped off compared to their rural counterparts. I also hope the dispensaries discover they can’t fulfill their mission as well when they’re limited to only the customers within their 25 mile radius. Then I hope both groups come together to fight to extend the right of home grow back to all patients, even the ones in cities.