Prop. 203 ok’s medical marijuana
As the recount began to unfold, the margin between success and defeat began to shrink for Arizona Proposition 203 — a ballot measure asking the state’s voters to legalize medical marijuana. Finally, 11 days after the election, it was announced 203 had just narrowly passed, 50.13 percent to 49.87 percent.
After trailing by as many as 10,000 votes on Election Day, the proposition had ridden to a 4,341 victory after all the poll results were tabulated.
Fred Solop, a political science professor at NAU, said he was stunned to see the proposition get approval from the voters after an early deficit, but he did not find the eventual outcome to be out of character for the state.
“The vote on medical marijuana was extremely close,” Solop said. “The opposition was ahead much of the time, though the election was not decided for almost two weeks. In that respect, I was surprised to see that the ballot question was ultimately supported by Arizona voters. From a historical perspective, Arizona voters supported medical marijuana on two previous occasions. Thus, it was not a total surprise to see medical marijuana supported once again.”
The recount included the ballots cast on Election Day and about 11,000 outstanding provisional and early voter ballots that had yet to be counted.
The passing of Prop. 203 makes Arizona the 15th state in the nation — excluding the District of Columbia — to legalize medical marijuana. Solop said public opinion throughout the nation is trending toward partial, medical-related legalization of cannabis.
“As medical marijuana acceptance grows, it is not surprising to see more states supporting the concept,” Solop said. “Layer this on top of the fact that we’re an aging population, and you can see that momentum is on the side of medical marijuana becoming more accepted throughout the nation.”
The new law allows physicians to prescribe 2.5 oz. of marijuana every two weeks to patients with serious debilitating illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis. If patients live more than 25 miles away from a licensed dispensary, they are allowed to grow up to 12 plants in their home with a permit and doctor consent.
While the state government cannot prevent the new law from going into effect, Solop said the Arizona Department of Health Service and the state legislature now face the issue of regulating the distribution of medical marijuana.
“The issue now is in the hands of Arizona Department of Health Services to develop a system for regulating and distributing medical marijuana,” Solop said. “The legislature could intervene in the process and shape final regulations.”
On Nov. 30, a panel discussion titled “Prop 203 Passed… Now What?” was held in the Communication building. The panel consisted of Erica Jenkins, a senior criminal justice major, Officer Jerry Rintala of the Flagstaff Police Department (FPD) and Kurtis Campbell, a senior speech communication major. The panelists discussed what the future holds for the regulation of medical marijuana and the challenges law enforcement will face in enforcing Prop. 203.
Rintala said FPD and other departments across the state will face issues verifying medical permits and conducting efficient sobriety tests.
“I can verify an ID,” Rintala said. “I can verify a permit. How are we going to verify that it is an actual prescription? We are still going to do field sobriety tests, but that is the only way we can test without drawing blood”.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for Rational Marijuana Legalization (NORML) foundation, said his group approves of Arizona’s decision on Prop. 203.
“[Arizona’s] medical cannabis law is best described as hybrid, as it is a combination of a number of different models from other states,” St. Pierre said. “Overall, NORML is happy to see [Arizona] become the 15th state to create legal protections for sick, dying or sense-threatened medical patients who, along with their physician, opt to choose cannabis as a cheap, effective and non-toxic alternative to pharmaceuticals.”