Medical marijuana may appear on the November 2010 ballot if one group campaigning at ASU achieves its goal.
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project has collected more than 130,000 of the minimum 150,000 signatures necessary by July 2010 to put the initiative on the ballot. The group’s goal is to reach 250,000 signatures in order to guarantee that there will be enough valid signatures from registered Arizona voters.
If the measure reaches the ballot and passes, Arizona will become the 14th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. The initiative would allow seriously and terminally ill patients to use marijuana to deal with serious pain or nausea with a doctor’s recommendation, said Andrew Myers, the project’s campaign manager.
The initiative would protect patients from prosecution and create clinics for patients to purchase the marijuana without having to resort to the criminal market, he said.
“Say you’re a cancer patient in Arizona who has nausea so bad you can’t continue with your chemotherapy,” Myers said. “Your oncologist says to you, ‘There’s something that can help you, but it’s illegal.’ You either have to A: Suffer with these debilitating side effects of the chemotherapy, or B: You have to go to the criminal market to try to obtain the medication that can help you.”
The goal of the project, Myers said, is to protect patients who are simply trying to receive the medication they need to live comfortably.
Support for the project has been strong across all demographics, Myers said, adding that in a poll the group did in February, 65 percent of people said they would vote in favor of a medical marijuana law.
“It’s actually hard to find a demographic group where this issue does not have … support,” he said. “It’s popular among young people and older people. In many cases, older people have personal experience or someone close to them had an experience where medical marijuana could have been beneficial.”
Dr. Sue Sisley, a private- practice physician and an assistant professor of inter-professional education at the UA and ASU College of Medicine in Phoenix, said it’s time for doctors to prepare for the measure’s possible passage.
“Doctors need to acknowledge that there’s a good chance this will pass [in the November 2010 election],” Sisley said. “We need to learn more about medical marijuana and how to responsibly recommend the medicine for qualifying diseases.”
Medical marijuana is often the best option for terminally ill patients who should be able to live out the end of their lives in comfort, she said.
“I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen that in the last year of their lives that were miserable because the medication they were taking didn’t allow them to communicate very well with their families,” Sisley said. “That’s just a tragedy for me.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration in Phoenix did not return requests for comment.
Myers said nearly 500 volunteers and workers with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project are stationed all throughout Arizona circulating petitions, including at universities.
Cathy Barry, an independent contractor for the group, takes up posts around ASU’s Tempe campus seeking signatures.
Barry said a medical marijuana law could be beneficial to people like herself who have chronic pain but are afraid of facing charges for trying to use marijuana.
“People shouldn’t have to fear persecution for trying to get help and feel better,” she said.
International letters and cultures junior Nicholas Tufo said he signed a petition outside the Durham Language and Literature building because he doesn’t think patients should face felony charges for trying to use their doctor-recommended medicine.
“I believe that marijuana has valid medicinal uses,” Tufo said. “And its medicinal uses should not be criminalized.”
By: Allison Gatlin
October 1, 2009