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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Arizona voters give the go ahead on medical marijuana


Phoenix - The final tally is in and by the narrow margin of 4,341 votes, Arizona becomes the 15th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
Proposition 203, the measure to legalize the sale and use of medical marijuana in the state of Arizona passed Saturday by the slimmest of margins. The unofficial results from the secretary of state's office indicates that, Proposition 203 received 50.13% of the more than 1.6 million votes cast. The latest results comes as somewhat of a surprise to many since the measure was on the losing side election day, down by 7,200 votes. The turnaround started when officials began their count of the provisional ballots election day and ended after Maricopa County's 11,000 outstanding ballots were finally tallied Saturday, putting the "yes" votes ahead in the end. Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project told The Associated Press after the results came in, "Now begins the very hard work of implementing this program in the way it was envisioned, with very high standards." Myers went on to add, "We really believe that we have an opportunity to set an example to the rest of the country on what a good medical marijuana program looks like." Although, Keep AZ Drug Free, the group opposing the new law believes the initiative will increase the crime rate near dispensaries, increase the number of people driving while impaired, and eventually lead to legalization of the drug. Chairwoman of the organization Carolyn Short said in an interview Friday, "All of the political leaders came out and warned Arizonans that this was going to have very dire effects on a number of levels, I don't think that all Arizonans have heard those dire predictions." The new law will allow patients (with a recommendation from a licensed physician) suffering from "chronic or debilitating" diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, or other diseases meeting state guidelines to buy 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks or grow their own plants. It will allow for the maximum of 124 non-profit dispensaries, proportionate to the number of pharmacies in the state, along with patients permitted to cultivate up to 12 plants if they live more than 25 miles away from the nearest dispensary. Arizona voters previously approved the use of medical marijuana twice before, back in 1996 and 1998 but they were never implemented due to problems in the wording of the laws. The Department of Health Services has 120 days to finalize the rules of implementation starting the 29th of this month when the general-election canvass is scheduled to be held.

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