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NATIONAL GROUP PUSHES FOR LEGALIZING WEED

By Cure20, Sep 26, 2005 | |
  1. Cure20
    MESA, Ariz. ( AP ) -- A pro-marijuana group based in Washington, D.C., is looking for activists in Arizona to build grass-roots support for legalized marijuana, with the eventual goal being to get the drug legalized here for all adults.

    The nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project is targeting seven states, including also Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.

    The effort is in its infancy, and project officials emphasize they have no master plan for the seven states.

    Instead, the group is looking for local activists whose efforts would be funded by the project's grant program. The eventual goal is to put marijuana in the same category as alcohol, with the same kind of taxes and regulation.

    A request for proposals has been issued in the seven states, where grant applicants are asked to list "escalating tactics that would lead to a change in state law in three to five years via the state Legislature or the statewide ballot initiative process," according to a job listing on the Internet.

    Tactics could include organizing demonstrations, lobbying state lawmakers, building a coalition of supportive organizations and generating favorable news coverage.

    "It's about providing funding and providing organization," said Krissy Oechslin, a spokeswoman for the project. "We'd like to bring it off the street and regulate it."

    Barnett Lotstein, a special assistant in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said the effort would go much further than previous Arizona medical marijuana initiatives, but it's not surprising.

    "The objective was, once you get people to think of drugs as medicine, the next step is legalization," he said. "The ultimate goal of people who propose the legalization of marijuana is the legalization of all drugs."

    The project has targeted Arizona because of support residents have shown for medical marijuana, said Oechslin.

    Voters here approved a ballot initiative in 1996 that gave doctors authority to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients.

    Public support continued two years later, when voters defeated a referendum sent to the ballot by state lawmakers, who wanted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve marijuana before Arizona doctors could prescribe the drug.

    However, voters also rejected a 2002 ballot measure aimed at correcting problems in the 1996 initiative. Doctors were afraid to write prescriptions for marijuana because federal authorities threatened to take away their prescribing authority, said Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a Phoenix surgeon and a medical marijuana campaign activist.

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