US AZ: Medicinal Pot One of 9 Issues to Make Ariz. Ballot

Newshawk: Support Proposition 203
Pubdate: Fri, 2 Jul 2010
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2010 The Arizona Republic
Authors: Kevin Kiley, Alia Beard Rau and Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic
Cited: Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project
Bookmark: (Cannabis – Medicinal – U.S.)


In November, voters will decide a variety of issues – from allowing
renaming the state’s No. 2 office to prohibiting affirmative-action programs.

As of Thursday’s filing deadline, nine measures qualified for the
Nov. 2 general-election ballot. But only one initiative – an effort
to legalize medical marijuana – qualified for through a citizen petition.

The other eight measures were referred to the ballot by the Legislature.

Organizers and observers attribute the low number of citizen-driven
initiatives to the lagging economy, which they say made it difficult
for groups to hire companies to gather signatures and get the word
out about their petitions.

“Most of the groups that would be doing initiatives have to be more
selective in a tight economy,” said Sandy Bahr, a lobbyist with the
Sierra Club. “It takes a lot of money. You have to really run two
campaigns, one campaign to get it on the ballot and then you have to
campaign to win.”

She said some groups that would traditionally run campaigns, such as
the National Rifle Association, had the legislature refer measures to
the voters instead or bypass the public altogether when possible,
removing the costly petition-gathering phase.

Shawn Dow, who organized an unsuccessful initiative effort to ban
photo-enforcement devices, said his group fell short because they
couldn’t pay signature gatherers.

“It’s impossible for an all-volunteer organization to get something
on the ballot,” he said.

For this election, initiatives needed to submit 153,365 signatures to qualify.

Past elections have seen much higher numbers citizen initiatives. In
2006, Arizona was the busiest state in the country with 19 measures,
including 10 initiatives. In 2008, there were 10 ballot measures and
nine voter initiatives.

Political observers said the nine ballot measures, while an
interesting and diverse group, are not the type of propositions to
generate large campaigns and will likely be overshadowed by statewide races.

“These are not big business issues,” said Gibson McKay, a lobbyist
and political consultant who has worked with several ballot
proposition campaigns. “When you have the liquor interest, or gaming
initiatives, those will turn people out to the polls because people
are paying millions and millions of dollars to make sure of that.”

Three prominent signature drives – to repeal the state’s
controversial new immigration law, to restructure the property tax
system and to eliminate photo-enforcement traffic devices – failed to
collect enough signatures.

One measure placed by the state Legislature, which would have
guaranteed a secret ballot in state-run and union elections, was
taken off the ballot Wednesday. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge
Robert Oberbillig ruled that the measure violated a constitutional
provision that requires parts of an initiative to be substantively related.

Lawyers in support of the proposition said they would appeal the
judge’s ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court, which could decide
before the election whether or not to keep the measure on the ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Proposition 203, driven by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy
Project, 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 drive
under the influence of marijuana, but the initiative would forbid
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.

Thirteen states allow the possession of small amounts of marijuana
for medical purposes, although only California has established a
widespread network of dispensaries to distribute it.