Arizona’s constitution allows the people themselves to pass laws by initiative. After years of legislative meddling in the people’s laws, Arizonans approved the Voter Protection Act (VPA) to protect their laws from legislative interference. Despite the VPA, legislators have passed multiple measures to undermine the medical marijuana program that the people of Arizona voted for in 2010 — and they’re at it again.
A series of bills proposed by the legislature would limit Proposition 203, which made medical marijuana legal in the state, and run afoul of the medical marijuana law and the VPA:
-- HB 206, introduced by Rep. Kelly Townsend, would ban the use of medical marijuana by pregnant women, inappropriately inserting the legislature into the doctor/patient relationship; and
-- HB 2404 and 2405, introduced by Rep. Vince Leach, would limit where marijuana can be grown and increase some patients’ fees.
If that wasn’t bad enough, now Rep. Bob Thorpe has introduced a resolution (HCR 2023) to gut the VPA and allow the legislature to change ballot initiatives passed by the voters in ways that are contrary to the purpose of the initiative.
An additional bill, HB 2019, introduced by Rep. Jay Lawrence, would have limited access to medical marijuana by restricting the types of medical professionals who can recommend it. Thanks to hundreds of patients and supporters calling and emailing Rep. Lawrence in opposition the bill, he decided to withdraw it, saying that he had not done enough research and would not support similar legislation in the future.
If you are an Arizona resident, please ask your lawmakers to stop interfering with medical marijuana!
The Marijuana Policy Project has filed paperwork with Arizona election officials to form a committee to begin raising funds for a 2016 citizens’ initiative to make the adult use of marijuana legal.
Despite the state’s traditionally conservative patterns, Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the group has sufficient support in Arizona.
“It appears most Arizona voters are ready to adopt a more sensible policy,” he said. “There were a large number of supporters who got on board (in 2010) and are ready to move forward.”
According to Tvert, a regulated retail market will not affect the medical marijuana business in Arizona. There would likely be a differentiation between the medical and adult retail business models — similar to what is currently in place in Colorado.
Moreover, Tvert said that if the 2016 citizens’ initiative in Arizona passes, existing medical marijuana dispensaries could also begin selling retail marijuana products, so long as the inventories are kept completely separate.
“Those businesses have established themselves and demonstrated they’re willing and able to follow the law,” he said. “It certainly makes sense to let those businesses be among the first to start providing marijuana to adults if the initiative passes.”
However, irrespective of what happens with Arizona’s medical marijuana business, Tvert said the initiative coalition will be sensitive to local needs.
“It will constantly evolve,” he said. “It will be, ‘This is what we believe is the best possible policy right now.’”
After a final tally of late provisional ballots, the Associated Press is reporting that Arizona voters have approved Proposition 203, a state ballot measure that will allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses to use medical marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. The measure passed by just 4,341 votes out of more than 1.67 million cast.
Arizona now joins the list of 14 other states, along with the District of Columbia, that have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996.
“Voters in Arizona have sided with science and compassion while dealing yet another blow to our nation’s cruel and irrational prohibition on marijuana,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which provided significant funding and support to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, the local group that ran the Proposition 203 campaign. “Arizona’s law now reflects the mainstream public opinion that seriously ill people should not be treated like criminals if marijuana can provide them relief, and that doctors should be able to recommend marijuana to patients if they believe it can help alleviate their suffering.”
Seventy percent of Americans favor making marijuana legally available for doctors to recommend in order to reduce pain and suffering, according to a recent Gallup poll.
“Sadly, patients in 35 states still have no legal protection if marijuana is the medicine that works best for them,” Kampia said. “We will continue working in the years ahead to ensure that others are awarded the respect and compassionate care that seriously ill patients in Arizona will now enjoy, thanks to this law.”
Proposition 203 allows for the establishment of about 120 tightly run, state-regulated clinics that will dispense marijuana to qualified patients in Arizona. Patients who live more than 25 miles from a clinic will be allowed to grow their own medicine.
Medical marijuana still has a chance of passing in Arizona, where as many as 300,000 votes on Proposition 203, the MPP-backed medical marijuana measure, have not yet been counted. It could be many days until we receive final word, but either way it will be close.
The following is from an email MPP executive director Rob Kampia sent last night to our supporters:
Based on the ballots tabulated by election officials last night, the initiative was trailing slightly, with 49.75% in favor, with 50.25% opposed ... a difference of less than 7,000 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast.
For the next few days, Arizona government officials will be counting an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 votes that were cast by people whose mail-in ballots arrived at polling stations or elections offices in the final hours of the campaign. They may also need to examine thousands of "provisional" ballots that were cast by people whose residency was in dispute at the polls on election day.
In sum, if our initiative receives 52% of the votes that have yet to be tabulated, our initiative passes.
If the measure ends up winning, it will allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening conditions to use marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. It would also authorize the opening of about 120 dispensaries across the state.
To help ensure victory in Arizona, please consider donating here.
We’re still tracking down all the results from yesterday’s election, but here’s a quick look at how things fared in races affecting marijuana policy.
This year witnessed historic progress in the campaign to end marijuana prohibition – but as some of these results below show, there remains much work ahead. MPP and others are already looking to build on this year’s advances by launching new campaigns in 2012.
First, the good news: Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts
The only two major party gubernatorial candidates in the nation to vocally support medical marijuana and decriminalization were both victorious. Democrat Peter Shumlin won in Vermont, and Democrat Dan Malloy won in Connecticut. Both men bring renewed hope to efforts to pass more sensible marijuana laws in their respective states.
Also, in Massachusetts, voters in 18 out of 18 districts have overwhelmingly approved a series of non-binding policy questions asking whether they support medical marijuana or the regulation of marijuana like alcohol. That not only sends a strong pro-reform message to state lawmakers, but is a good sign for future efforts in Massachusetts as well.
Next, the bad news: California, Oregon, South Dakota, and New Mexico
As most readers probably already know, California’s Proposition 19, which would have made the Golden State the first in the nation to fully end the prohibition on adult marijuana use, was defeated last night. Garnering 46% of the vote, it still made history as the highest statewide vote in favor of marijuana legalization to date.
Sadly, the Obama administration took this defeat as an opportunity to spout more baseless “Reefer Madness”-style propaganda.
In Oregon, Measure 74, which would have authorized state-licensed dispensaries, also failed, as did South Dakota’s Measure 13 for medical marijuana. Pre-election polling showed both measures trailing significantly.
And in New Mexico, voters have elected Republican Susana Martinez as the state’s next governor. Martinez has previously voiced her desire to repeal New Mexico’s medical marijuana law – considered by many to be a national model for regulation.
But wait – the undecided! Arizona and California attorney general
The only marijuana ballot measure that still retains a hope of victory is Arizona’s Proposition 203, the medical marijuana initiative that would establish up to 120 licensed dispensaries in Arizona and received significant support from MPP. Current results show the measure down by fewer than 7,000 votes, but we have reports that up to 200,000 ballots have not yet been counted. It still has a chance!
And finally – in a hugely significant contest for the future of medical marijuana in California – it appears that Republican Steve Cooley is heading toward defeat in the race for California attorney general. Simply put, Cooley is a self-declared enemy of medical marijuana laws, and his election could have wrought all kinds of hardship on thousands of patients and providers throughout California.
That’s all for now. We have more updates and analysis on the way.
Voters all across the country will cast ballots tomorrow in elections that could alter the course of U.S. marijuana policy for years to come. Here are the 9 most important contests to watch for the movement to end marijuana prohibition:
- California: Proposition 19 would make marijuana legal for all adults – it represents the best chance to date for a single state to overturn the failure of marijuana prohibition and offer an alternative for others to follow. It would make it legal for all adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as grow a 25-square-foot marijuana garden on their property. It would also allow localities to tax and regulate marijuana sales, but it remains unclear how the federal government would react if Prop 19 passes. Website: yeson19.org
- Arizona: Proposition 203, an MPP-backed initiative, would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening diseases to use marijuana with their doctor’s recommendation. Patients could purchase their medicine from tightly regulated, state-licensed dispensaries or grow their own if they live more than 25 miles from a clinic. Website: stoparrestingpatients.org
- Oregon: Measure 74 would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana law by authorizing regulated, state-licensed nonprofit clinics to provide improved patient access to their medicine. The system would generate an estimated $3 to $20 million a year for the state through taxes and fees. Website: measure74.com
- South Dakota: Measure 13 would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS and other serious ailments to use marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. Patients could grow their own medicine or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. Website: sdcompassion.org
- Vermont: VOTE Peter Shumlin for governor. Shumlin (D), the state Senate pro tempore, played a major role in passing Vermont’s medical marijuana law in 2004, and has been a staunch advocate for marijuana decriminalization. MPP has spent years lobbying for a decriminalization law in Vermont. With Shumlin as governor, Vermont would be well poised to pass decriminalization and expand its medical marijuana law by authorizing licensed dispensaries. Website: www.shumlinforgovernor.com
- California: NOT Steve Cooley for attorney general. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley (R) is a rabid anti-marijuana zealot who has falsely claimed that all medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal, and that he would continue to prosecute adults for marijuana crimes even if voters pass Proposition 19. If he wins the election for state attorney general, he will become the state’s top law enforcement official and could reverse years of progress toward saner marijuana laws in California. Website: notcooley.com
- New Mexico: NOT Susana Martinez for governor. Martinez (R), the leading candidate for governor, has said she will work to overturn New Mexico’s medical marijuana law if elected. New Mexico’s law enjoys wide popular support and is often described as the tightest-regulated law in the country. But Martinez believes federal law should trump a popular local law – despite the Obama administration’s promise of non-intervention in state medical marijuana laws. Website: donttakeawaymymedicine.org
- Connecticut: VOTE Dan Malloy for governor. Malloy (D) has said that he “absolutely” supports decriminalizing marijuana, as well as medical marijuana legislation that would protect seriously ill patients from arrest. Outgoing Gov. Jodi M. Rell vetoed medical marijuana legislation in 2007. If Malloy were elected governor, proponents would be given renewed hope for passing a medical marijuana law in Connecticut. Website: danmalloy.com
- Massachusetts: More than 70 local municipalities in Massachusetts will be voting on non-binding resolutions and public policy questions calling on the state government to pass medical marijuana or end marijuana prohibition entirely. These initiatives are a great opportunity for Massachusetts voters to send a strong message to their state lawmakers, as well as give local organizers a better sense of where things stand for future marijuana initiatives in Massachusetts. Website: masscann.org
You can find links to other MPP state voter guides at our state page.
Now -- if you haven't already -- go out and VOTE!