|U.S. Won't Provide Pot to Arizona|
Posted by CN Staff on September 04, 2002 at 09:23:41 PT|
By Christina Leonard and Elvia Díaz
Source: Arizona Republic
Officials at a federally funded marijuana research farm in Mississippi say they never agreed to supply sick Arizonans with the drug, despite wording in the Arizona initiative suggesting that it would come from there. Administrators say their farm isn't even a feasible option.
Proposition 203 would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and have the Arizona Department of Public Safety distribute free monthly doses to the seriously ill.
Under a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the University of Mississippi's Marijuana Project raises about one acre of research-grade marijuana annually for approved research, institute spokeswoman Beverly Jackson said.
"There's no way Arizona can get this marijuana from the University of Mississippi," said Thomas Hinojosa, a spokesman with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Not only would Arizona's request not fit the research criteria, but it would also conflict with federal law, Hinojosa said. And generally, federal law takes precedence over state law.
Jeffrey A. Singer, a Phoenix physician promoting the Nov. 5 ballot initiative, said it would be disingenuous for the federal government to grow its own marijuana for medical research and not distribute it to the ill.
The initiative states that DPS must send a letter to the institute and the university requesting "quarterly shipments of marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi to the Department of Public Safety in such amounts as are necessary to provide marijuana to all persons qualified," beginning Feb. 1.
The institute has been growing pot under tight conditions in Oxford, Miss., since the 1970s, shipping it to about a dozen research programs that service several hundred people.
Singer said that if DPS fails to get the marijuana from the farm, the agency can use confiscated marijuana after screening it. People would also have the option of growing up to two plants for medical purposes, according to the initiative.
DPS has opposed the measure. Some patients who say they need marijuana have spoken in favor of it.
"I'm forced to get marijuana under the nastiest conditions right now," said Josh Burner, a Mesa resident who has been using the drug since the mid-1990s, when he was diagnosed with cancer.
"I have no way of knowing whether the marijuana I buy off the streets is safe," he said. "I'd rather get it from DPS."
The initiative would allow anyone to register for the drug as long as they can show a doctor's recommendation or copies of his or her medical records.
The measure, sponsored by a committee called People Have Spoken, could create headaches for DPS, an already cash-strapped agency.
"We don't have the money to test the marijuana we seize to see if it's safe enough to distribute," DPS spokesman Frank Valenzuela said. "We'd be foolish to not test it and just send it out."
In 1996, Arizona voters approved a measure allowing marijuana with a doctor's prescription, but lawmakers effectively nixed its use by putting doctors at risk of losing their licenses for prescribing it.
Two years later, voters again passed a similar law, but doctors still aren't prescribing marijuana because the federal government has threatened to take their licenses away, initiative proponents said.
"Despite their political leadership being so opposed for such a long time, people in Arizona are able to make the distinction between marijuana decriminalization and legalization," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation, a non-profit group that educates the public about marijuana policy options.
St. Pierre said the group is keeping close tabs on marijuana initiatives in Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, South Dakota, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
He thinks voters will likely approve Arizona's measure, but that the Legislature will balk and refuse to create a model for DPS to distribute the marijuana.
"The real culpability here is in Washington, D.C.," St. Pierre said.
Source: Arizona Republic (AZ)
Related Articles & Web Site:
LaWall, Romley Oppose Pot Initiative
Marijuana Initiative Foes Fight 'Lie'
Prop. 203: The Debate Over Pot Laws
It's Time We Scrap Drug Laws Mired in Failure
Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for Arizona Ballot