Arizona Narrowly Approves Medical Marijuana

Arizona voters approved, by the slimmest of margins, the legal use of marijuana to treat serious and life threatening injuries and diseases.

The measure, known as Proposition 203, passed on November 2 by just over 4,000 votes out of 1.6 million cast, making Arizona the fifteenth state in the nation to legalize the use of marijuana for medical treatment. Support for the measure had been strong, though on Election Day it appeared it might go down to defeat. But after a three-day ballot count, the measure received the votes to become law.

The measure revealed deep divisions, with opposition coming from every law enforcement agency in the state, including the state attorney general and local sheriff's departments, along with anti-drug groups that claim legalizing medical marijuana will lead to increased crime and other social ills. Strong support came from a variety of people and institutions dealing and treating a variety of chronic ailments such as cancer, hepatitis C and AIDS. Supporters say that marijuana can help ease the pain of a person suffering from a chronic or terminal disease, and legalization keeps those suffering from chronic debilitating conditions from facing marijuana charges for buying marijuana. Along with many in the health community, support for the legislation came from a variety of groups that favor the legalization of marijuana, including the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.

Under the new law, patients must first get approval from their physician and then register with the state Department of Health Services, which will establish 124 marijuana dispensaries from where patients can buy up to five ounces of marijuana per month. Patients can also grow their own marijuana plants.

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