|Graphic: Reality Catcher|
An initiative which would legalize medical marijuana has qualified for the November ballot in Arizona.
The Arizona Secretary of State on Tuesday informed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project (AMMPP) that it had turned in the required number of signatures — 153,365 — to qualify for the ballot. The initiative will be presented to Arizona voters for approval on November 2, reports the Tucson Citizen.
AMMPP in April turned in 252,000 signatures to make sure that the required 153,365 valid signatures were turned it.
|Andrew Myers, AMMPP: “Now that we’ve qualified for the ballot, we need to educate voters about why this initiative is so important for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens.”|
”Registered voters in Arizona will have the opportunity this November to provide qualified patients access to medical marijuana to alleviate their suffering,” said Andrew Myers, campaign manager for AMMPP. “Now that we’ve qualified for the ballot, we need to educate voters about why this initiative is so important for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens.”
“We are very happy that Arizonans will have the opportunity this November to vote for a compassionate and responsible law that protects seriously ill patients,” said Steve Fox, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project, which provides funding and support to AMMPP.
“By voting in favor of this initiative, Arizonans will ensure that residents suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious ailments will be given safe access to a medicine they and their doctors believe can relieve their condition,” Fox said. “The proposed law will also create a dispensary system that will provide patients the same reliable access to medical marijuana that they would have to any other medicine — meaning they won’t have to risk their own safety by purchasing it from the criminal market.”
If passed by Arizona voters, medical marijuana will be regulated by the Arizona Department of Health Services and will permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to legally buy marijuana from nonprofit, regulated dispensaries so they need not purchase it from the criminal market.
The law would protect seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for taking their doctor-recommended medicine. Qualifying conditions include HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and other serious illnesses.
“This day means a lot to me personally,” said Heather Torgerson, a brain cancer survivor and advocate for patients who use medical marijuana.
“When this passes in November, I will no longer have to worry about being arrested and prosecuted for purchasing or possessing medical marijuana,” Torgerson said. “I will have affordable, safe and legal access to a medicine that helps keep me alive, and for that I am grateful.”
The Arizona campaign is largely bankrolled by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which provided most of the $487,250 spent by the effort through December 31, reports AZ Central. Nearly all those funds were used for paid signature collectors.
Individual contributions to the Arizona campaign through December 31 amounted to $12,185, and came from individuals across the country, from engineers to pizza-delivery drivers.
This is the fourth time since 1996 that Arizona citizens have been asked to vote on medical marijuana.
That year, voters approved a ballot initiative that allowed marijuana use with a doctor’s prescription. But federal authorities threatened to revoke the licenses of doctors who prescribed the drug, and state lawmakers gutted the law.
In 1998, voters rejected a pair of referenda that would have hindered the legalization of medical marijuana by requiring the federal government to OK its use before any doctor could prescribe it.
In 2002, voters rejected an effort to make it legal for adults to possess small quantities of cannabis and make it available free to patients suffering from cancer and other diseases.
If the measure becomes law, it would still be illegal to use marijuana in public or to drive under the influence of pot in Arizona, but the initiative protects the employment of medical marijuana patients by forbidding employers from firing qualifying patients who test positive for the drug, unless the employer can prove the patient used or was impaired at work.