homegrown by ilmungo on flickr

A bit of good news coming out of Arizona, despite the state’s disaster of immigration policy. Medical marijuana advocates in Arizona announced today that they qualified for a spot on this year’s ballot after turning in about 252,000 signatures, well more than the 145,000 required by the state. That means when Arizonans hit the polls this November, they’ll be able to vote to allow medical marijuana use in the state.

Campaign manager Andrew Myers said the next step is to begin educating voters about what the initiative hopes to accomplish.

“This is about protecting our most vulnerable citizens from a really cruel and unnecessary law that forces them to live in fear when all they want to do is acquire medication that makes their life worth living,” Myers said.

“This is about protecting people who are seriously or terminally ill from being arrested just for following their doctor’s advice.”

The initiative proposes to allow patients with a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis to purchase, possess and use 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks with a doctor’s recommendation.

Non-profit dispensaries regulated by the state would grow and sell the drug to approved patients.

It still would be illegal to use marijuana in a public place or to drive under the influence of marijuana in Arizona, but the initiative forbids employers from firing qualified medical-marijuana users who test positive for the drug unless they can prove patients used or were impaired while at work.

Arizona previously voted on medical marijuana measures in 1996, 1998, and 2002. While voters twice voted in favor of doctors prescribing medical marijuana, pressure from the Arizona legislature and federal DEA rendered the referendums useless. A 2002 effort to allow doctors to legally “recommend” marijuana failed at the ballot.

This year’s initiative goes beyond previous efforts by fully authorizing doctors to recommend marijuana to chronically ill patients, and allows for dispensaries to grow and sell marijuana to patients.

Marijuana Policy Project, the group pushing the initiative in Arizona, conducted a poll in February 2009 that showed 65% support for medical marijuana. Keep in mind that across the country, 73% of Americans support medical marijuana use. And out West, alongside Arizona, 55% of the public supports full legalization of marijuana. On the surface, prospects look good for medical marijuana in Arizona in November.

Michael Whitney

Michael Whitney

My name is Michael Whitney. I'm a progressive online organizer working with FDL Action. Rush Limbaugh called me "clueless" once. He went into rehab two days later.