Arizona Medical Marijuana Question, Proposition 203

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The Arizona Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Proposition 203, or I-04-2010, will appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot in the state of Arizona as an initiated state statute. Sponsors of the proposed initiative submitted their qualifying signatures to election officials in the state in April and on June 1, 2010, the Arizona Secretary of State qualified the measure. It was verified that the effort had collected enough signatures for ballot access. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project is the main sponsor of the measure. If the measure is enacted, Arizona will become the 15th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana.[1][2]

If approved, the proposition will allow residents in the state with specific medical conditions to be treated with certain amounts of marijuana for personal use. According to the provisions of the initiative, the Arizona Department of Health Services would be put in charge of regulating the sale and use of medical marijuana. The measure would also allow qualifying patients and caregivers to purchase the drug from specific, closely watched clinics. Patients would also be protected from arrest and prosecution for using the plant for medicinal purposes.

Employers would also not be allowed to discriminate in hiring employees, as well as terminating employment against registered cardholders. However, workers would not be allowed to be on the medicine while on the job.[3][4]

Text of measureEdit

Ballot titleEdit

The ballot title that Arizona voters will see reads as follows:[5]

A "yes" vote shall have the effect of authorizing the use of marijuana for people with debilitating medical conditions who obtain a written certification from a physician and establishing a regulatory system governed by the Arizona Department of Health Services for establishing and licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. A "no" vote shall have the effect of retaining current law regarding the use of marijuana.

Short titleEdit

The short title of the measure, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's website, reads as follows:[6]

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects terminally or seriously ill patients from state prosecution for using limited amounts of marijuana on their doctor's recommendation. Qualifying patients who register with the Arizona Department of Health Services will obtain marijuana from nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries regulated by ADHS. Private cultivation will be allowed by ADHS only when no dispensary is available. The Act is self-funding and establishes safeguards: registration cards; fingerprinting of caregivers and dispensary personnel to exclude drug and violent felons; strict security, recordkeeping and oversight requirements; inspection of dispensaries; restrictions on number and location of dispensaries; and providing penalties.

Summary of initiativeEdit

The summary of the initiative, as provided by the Arizona Secretary of State's website, is:

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects terminally or seriously ill patients from state prosecution for using limited amounts of marijuana on their doctor's recommendation. Qualifying patients who register with the Arizona Department of Health Services will obtain marijuana from nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries regulated by ADHS. Private cultivation will be allowed by ADHS only when no dispensary is available. The Act is self-funding and establishes safeguards: registration cards; fingerprinting of caregivers and dispensary personnel to exclude drug and violent felons; strict security, record keeping and oversight requirements; inspection of dispensaries; restrictions on number and location of dispensaries; and providing penalties.[7]

Federal memorandumEdit

On October 19, 2009 Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors in states that allow for the use of medical marijuana. The memo said that federal resources should not be focused on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."[8]

In light of the recent news, Myers said, "This is the most important event that has happened in the medical-marijuana movement in the last 30 years." Additionally, Myers noted that the federal memorandum will help alleviate concerns for participants and dispensary operators.[9]



  • The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project filed the petition with the Secretary of State’s Office on November 23, 2009, which listed Diane Manchester as the official chairman of the organization. Manchester is a former civilian employee of the Phoenix Police Department who retired on disability. She has turned to medical marijuana in order to help her cope with pain that results from her multiple sclerosis. She has taken her place as chairman due to the growing fear among medical marijuana patients that they might be arrested. According to Manchester: “I am so prone to being scared, and it’s terrible. I want to stop the fear of the people who need it (marijuana). I am so tired of not being able to tell the truth. I know when my name and picture are out there people are going to know me. And that’s okay.”[10]
  • Heather Torgerson, chair of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, stated that she wrote a college paper against the use of medical marijuana. She changed her stance because she stated the reason for her survival of brain cancer was the use of the drug. She stated that chemotherapy and radiation caused her to experience nausea and fatigue, but when she used marijuana, her appetite returned quickly. Torgerson commented about the drug, "I owe my life to it."[11]
  • The Pima County Democratic Party recommended a 'yes' vote on the measure.[12]


  • According to supporters, steps other have been taken to ensure that the distribution of medical marijuana, if the measure is enacted, would be distributed in a strictly regulated way.
  • If the measure is enacted, supporters further state, people who are diagnosed with cancer, AIDs, HIV, Alzheimer’s, Hepatitis C and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis would benefit.
  • According to Andrew Myers, of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, “There are doctors all over Arizona already that are recommending marijuana to their patients, but they're doing it in an extra-legal manner. And we're putting patients who are doing nothing but following a doctor's advice at risk for felony prosecution."[13]
  • Myers went on to argue, "This takes a piece of the market away from the drug cartels and gives patients a safe, legal alternative. There is abuse in any system when you are talking about controlled substances. The good news with marijuana is that you can't overdose on it. It's not physiologically addictive like painkillers."[4]

Controversies, stories and passage preparationsEdit

  • Supporters of the initiative pointed to an incident in Michigan where a worker was fired by Wal-Mart Inc. under its anti-drug policy. The worker had been legally prescribed marijuana to help treat pain from sinus cancer, but was not exempt from the policy. The firing shed light on the initiative, which supporters say would stop incidents like the one in Michigan due to the provisions in the proposed measure that would prevent workers from being fired if under medical marijuana treatment.[14]
Joseph Casias, of Battle Creek, Michigan, was fired in November 2009 after he was drug tested in a usual screening when he sprained his knee on the job.[15]
According to a Yuma Sun editorial, which commented on the situation in Michigan and the initiative in Arizona, "Even if the marijuana is for medical purposes, it could impair the worker. Employers need to have some way to deal with this potential problem so they can maintain safe workplaces if the use of medical marijuana is allowed."[16]
  • A report was given by KVOA in Tucson, highlighting a man who has been dependent on the cannabis plant to alleviate his pain. Tom Maza has used the drug for 30 years and stated that he is hoping for the passage of Proposition 203. According to Maza, "It would change my life dramatically with just the medical aspect of it being legalized, because as a person who is diagnosed with HIV in 1985 back when there wasn't a single pill for that, it was something at that time that just kept me going...Marijuana has by its ability to open up vascular blood vessels, it makes it go away basically and keeps it away."[17]
  • The Pima County Board of Supervisors began their preparations for the passage of the amendment. Although the report stating this did not give light as to what side the board is taking with this issue, it did state that the board gave approval to initiate the creation of a zoning code for medical marijuana facilities and dispensaries. The board voted 5-0 to begin this process. According to supervisor Sharon Bronson, "Should this initiative pass we’ll at least be more prepared than those in California and Colorado."[18]
  • There have been claims in the state that medical marijuana, if the measure is passed, would be sold on mobile "cannabis caravans". However, supporters of the measure have stated that the law would be carefully monitored, more so than similar measures that have been passed in other states. According to Andrew Myers, of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, "It is a very detailed and well-regulated piece of legislation. Prop. 203 is entirely unique. We do an excellent job of limiting the medical marijuana, and restricting who can sell it."[4]

Legislative actionEdit

The Arizona Legislature had planned to debate whether to tax the possible marijuana law if the ballot measure is passed. If the proposal is approved by voters in the November election, Senator Jorge Luis Garcia wanted to tax the marijuana that would be subsequently sold under the act. According to reports, an analysis by the legislative budget staff, which is nonpartisan, stated that a medical marijuana tax may rake in approximately $1 million for the state's General Fund in 2012. The Arizona State Senate approved of the tax on March 26, 2010 with a vote of 17-12. However, no further action has been taken, and may not be taken if the measure is passed, due to the marijuana being categorized as a medicine.[19][20][21][22]

Campaigns, events and strategiesEdit

  • On April 20, 2010, medical marijuana activists marched through Safford, Arizona in favor of the medical marijuana measure. One activists, Jerry Benson, told a local newspaper that he wouldn't be alive if it weren't for the cannabis plant. According to Benson, years ago he was prescribed drugs that did damage to his liver and deteriorated his health, at which point doctors gave him only 90 days to live. Benson stated he stopped using the prescribed drugs and started to smoke marijuana, which lead to him living a longer and healthier life. Charles Gilbert, activist and user, stated during the march that marijuana was more effective in alleviating his pain than other prescribed drugs. Gilbert had his left kidney and part of his right kidney removed due to cancer.[23]
  • At a debate hosted by Cox Communications and Gateway Community College on September 22, 2010, all ten measures on the November ballot in Arizona were argued for and against by both sides of the issues. Proposition 203 was discussed, to where Andrew Myers, of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, argued about the measure, "Proposition 203 will allow patients safe, legal and reliable access to medication that for many can be life-saving."[24]



  • The main opposition to the measure is Keep AZ Drug Free. According to Carolyn Short, chairwoman of the group, the measure isn't just about medical marijuana, but about the protection of marijuana users. According to Short, "Saying that this is for medicine for sick people is an absolute smokescreen." Short also pointed out that the law allows for 2.5 ounces, which is more than what one person could smoke in two weeks. Short stated, "What happens to the excess? I think we know what happens to the excess."[25]
  • Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stated opposition to legalizing medical marijuana. She argued, "Almost all marijuana recommendations come from a few doctors (who) for, say, $150, will prescribe pot to nearly anyone." She also claimed that although people would benefit from the medicine, that "compassion will quickly turn to capitalism."[26]
  • Max Fose, a Phoenix political consultant, created a campaign against the idea of a medical marijuana tax called "Stop the Pot". The campaign has so far donated $2,5000 towards defeated the proposed ballot initiative.
  • Dough Hebert is planning to launch a campaign against Proposition 203. According to Hebert, "It's really not about medical marijuana it's about decriminalization, and tying up the hands of the police, the prosecutors, and the courts...We're going to have actually be plagued with indoor groves around the state of Arizona, because most of Arizona is rural area."[22]
  • Carolyn Short, chairperson of the Keep AZ Drug Free anti-203 campaign, the measure is not what supporters are making it out to be. Short stated, "This is not about medicine. It is a backdoor route to legalization. This gives marijuana users unprecedented protections...It is a disaster for employers, which is why the Arizona Chamber of Commerce is supporting our efforts"[4]
  • Tim Carter, Yavapai County School Superintendent, claimed in an editorial, "In my opinion, Prop 203 will negatively impact the health and safety of our students, our schools, and our communities. Children and young adults will be allowed to have "medical" marijuana cards and schools may not refuse to enroll them! Prop 203 specifically allows children (with parental permission) to get marijuana cards. Children who are marijuana cardholders will be allowed to smoke before, during lunch breaks off campus and after school. (500 feet away from the school)".[28]
  • Linda Turley-Hansen, syndicated columnist and former Phoenix TV anchor, advised a 'no' vote on the measure in an editorial revealing her recommendations for all the propositions on the November ballot.[29]
  • State Senator Ron Gould and State Representative Nancy G. McLain both voiced their opposition to the measure.[30]


Arguments that have been made against the measure include:

  • According to the Stop the Pot official website, the campaign has formed in order to inform Arizona voters of the negative affects of legalizing medical marijuana. Also included on the site is the concern over the credibility of the Medical Marijuana Policy Project, which is the major funding source of the circulating initiative.
  • According to the website, when citing the negative affects, "Users will be able to smoke over 200 joints every 14 days. 200 joints a person is a lot of drugs on our streets, in our neighborhoods and around our children."
  • Another phrase found on the website stated, "Help keep drugs out of our neighborhoods and away from our children". Not only does the site refer to the amount of drugs being sold, but also the dispensaries that would sell those drugs...Do you want a pot shop in your neighborhood?"[31][32]
  • The measure could result in lawsuits to solve the legal questions surrounding the issue of medical marijuana, and its legalization. Drug Free America Executive Director Calvina Fay pointed out that legal issues have risen in California due to the legalization of medical marijuana.[33]
  • Carol West of the League of Women Voters, in an editorial published in Inside Tucson Business, stated that the measure should be passed. West wrote, "While the proposition attempts to regulate drug use so it is not out of control, it is difficult to effectively regulate marijuana because the dosage can’t be accurately measured or regulated. There is also the potential for fraud and abuse...Other states that have legalized medical marijuana have had a difficult time regulating its use. This is a time for Arizonans to resist a trend and vote no on Proposition 203."[34]
  • Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk stated in an editorial published by the Prescott News, "I have done the research. As a parent and concerned citizen, I will be voting “no” on Proposition 203. I recommend that each voter do their own review and suspect that many will come to the same conclusion. Consider these statistics from states who have adopted laws to “decriminalize marijuana for terminally ill patients”: 97-98% of medical marijuana cardholders are aged 17 to 35 and suffer from “chronic pain” while only 2-3% of cardholders suffer from cancer, glaucoma, HIV and other debilitating illnesses. Under proposition 203, a “cardholder” is entitled to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks amounting to 140 marijuana joints (10 joints per day). These large amounts of unmonitored and unregulated marijuana are grown, harvested and consumed in the community."[35]

Campaigning and eventsEdit

  • According to reports, MATForce, which is the Yavapai County Substance Abuse coalition, will offer an educational presentation on the measure, informing voters of the impacts that the proposal could have. The measure will be dissected by Douglas Hebert. Hebert, a board member of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, is a former Phoenix DEA Assistant Special Agent.[36]
Reports are saying that Hebert will dissect the proposal and the possible impacts that it could have on young Arizonans, employers, landlords and law enforcement in the state. He will highlight that discrimination is prohibited against registered users of the drug by schools and landlords.
  • At a debate hosted by Cox Communications and Gateway Community College on September 22,2010, all ten measures on the November ballot in Arizona were argued for and against by both sides of the issues. Proposition 203 was discussed, to where Bill Montgomery, argued about the measure, "A toothache could get you a recommendation for marijuana, a bad back, lumbago, wearing high heels all day." The comment from Montgomery was a rebuttal to Prop. 203 proponent Andrew Myers and his statements in favor of the measure.[24]

Campaign contributionsEdit


Groups or individuals that have donated to the campaign for the measure and the amount they have donated are shown in the table below. The information provided is current as of August 19, 2010. Donors listed below have spent $10,000 or more, thus are listed on the Arizona Secretary of State's website:[37]

Contributor Amount
Marijuana Policy Project $60,000
J & R Graphics and Printing, LLC $11,316.26
Marijuana Policy Project $50,000
Jerome Hirsch $10,000

Analysis and reportsEdit

Legislative council analysisEdit

A legislative council analysis was performed on the measure and published in the Arizona Secretary of State's Publicity Pamphlet. The analysis is lengthy and impartial, and can be read here.[5]

Fiscal legislative budget analysisEdit

According to a required fiscal legislative budget analysis conducted regarding the measure, approximately 66,000 Arizona residents would be able to register under the proposed medical marijuana program. The analysis, performed by the Legislature's budget staff, stated that 39,600 patients would register and that 26,400 approved caregivers would have the projected 66,000 patients by the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the year full implementation the proposal would take effect.[38]

The report also stated that the calculating costs of the measure would be covered by fees, civil penalties and donations. According to reports, the analysis was based on the existing medical marijuana program in the state of Colorado.

Possible litigationEdit

According to reports, there could be possible legal action in separate cases if enacted by voters. The aspect of the initiative that is under concern is the provision that states that employers cannot hire, fire and discipline residents who are considered holders of medical marijuana cards. According to Arizona attorney Don Johnsen, current state law does not mandate that employers and companies accommodate medical marijuana patients that are employees, or potential employees of the company. According to Johnsen, "This ballot initiative obviously would reverse that." However, there could be challenges to this provision if the measure is passed. Johnsen later stated, "One doctor may say, 'Yeah, based on these facts, in my professional opinion this person was impaired or under the influence.' In another case, a doctor might reach a different conclusion."

The main problem of the provision, according to another Arizona attorney, David Selden, is that a level of impairment on the job due to marijuana usage would be difficult to find out. According to Selden, "Unlike alcohol testing, drug testing doesn't measure the current level of impairment." Selden also stated that basically the most probable way for an employer to fire an employee were to either catch him or her smoking the drug or possessing it while working.

Andrew Myers, who is the campaign manager for the group that spearheaded the initiative, agreed with the assessment that many legal challenges could arise if the measure were to be approved by voters. Myers stated, "Ultimately, we are not able to draft legislation that is going to account for all the situations that are going to come up."[39]

Similar measuresEdit

Marijuana-related ballot measures voted on previously by Arizonans include:

  • Proposition 200 in 1996: Allowed doctors to prescribe drugs to seriously and terminally ill patients. The measure's significant provisions were later repealed by the Arizona Legislature.
  • Proposition 300 and Proposition 301 in 1998: The repeals by the Legislature were overturned in yet another citizen vote, but wording of the measure required a written prescription, allowing the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to threaten to revoke prescription-writing privileges of doctors who wrote medical marijuana prescriptions.
  • Proposition 203 in 2002: An initiative failed that would have allowed a written recommendation by a doctor sufficient enough to obtain medical marijuana.

External linksEdit

Additional readingEdit

Government documentsEdit




  1. Arizona Republic, "Arizona will vote on medical marijuana", June 2, 2010
  2. Arizona Daily Sun, "Prop. 203 sets medical marijuana on right legal, financial paths", October 1, 2010
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named AZTimes
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Arizona Daily Star, "Prop. 203: Foes use 'cannabis caravan' scare", October 2, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 Arizona Secretary of State, "Publicity Pamphlet", Retrieved September 21, 2010
  6. Arizona Secretary of State, "2010 General Election:Ballot measures"
  7. Secretary of State, "Application", May 15, 2009
  8. The New York Times,"U.S. Won’t Prosecute in States That Allow Medical Marijuana," October 19, 2009
  9. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named FedMemo
  10. Arizona Capital Times, "Former Phoenix police employee takes helm of medical marijuana initiative", November 30, 2009
  11. Kingman Daily Miner, "Ailing Arizonans would benefit from medical marijuana", September 22, 2010
  12. Blog For Arizona, "PCDP Ballot Measure Recommendations", Retrieved October 18, 2010
  13., "Could Medical Marijuana Soon Be Legal in Arizona?", January 13, 2010
  14. Yuma Sun, "Marijuana for medical uses can still impair", March 21, 2010
  15. Fox News, "Wal-Mart 'Sympathetic' to Man Fired for Using Medical Pot, but Won't Rehire Him", March 17, 2010
  16. Yuma Sun, "Marijuana for medical uses can still impair", March 21, 2010
  17., "Medical marijuana on November ballot", August 25, 2010
  18. Arizona Daily Star, "Supervisors move on county zoning rules for medical pot", September 7, 2010
  19. CNBC, "Ariz. Senate to decide whether to tax marijuana", March 25, 2010
  20. Arizona Capital Times, "Senate OKs medical marijuana tax", March 25, 2010
  21. Join Together, "Ariz. Legislature Mulls Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative", March 30, 2010
  22. 22.0 22.1, "Prop 203: Details on Push to Legalize Medical Marijuana", July 13, 2010
  23. Easter Arizona Courier, "Medical marijuana activists march in Downtown Safford", April 25, 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 ABC15, "Voters voice questions over November ballot measures", September 23, 2010
  25. Tuscon Sentinel, "Supporters: Ailing Arizonans would benefit from medical marijuana", September 20, 2010
  26. East Valley Tribune, "Brewer wants voters to reject medical marijuana proposition", October 21, 2010
  27. PRWeb, "Journey Healing Centers Opposes Medical Marijuana Proposition", June 2, 2010
  28. The Bugle, "My Turn: PROP 203 negatively impacts schools", October 9, 2010
  29. East Valley Tribune, "Voters: Awaken and prepare for heavy-duty ballot propositions", October 10, 2010
  30. Kingman Daily Miner, "Officials sound off on upcoming propositions", October 14, 2010
  31. Stop the Pot, "Home Page"
  32. Yuma Sun, "Phoenix political consultant takes aim at medical pot", April 4, 2010
  33. Arizona Journal, "Medical Marijuana Question Will Be On November Ballot", June 16, 2010
  34. Inside Tuscon Business, "Resist temptation, vote 'no' to legalize medical marijuana", September 10, 2010
  35. Prescott News, "Consider Prop 203 Carefully Before Voting", September 29, 2010
  36. Prescott News, "Learn the Facts about the AZ Medical Marijuana Initiative", July 19, 2010
  37. Arizona Secretary of State, "Notifications of Contributions to Ballot Measure Committees"
  38. CNBC, "Arizona medical marijuana signups projected at 66K", July 12, 2010
  39. Arizona Republic, "Medical-pot measure to limit some firings", April 1, 2010

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