Arizona Becomes Fifteenth State To Legalize Limited Medical Use Of Marijuana

Phoenix, AZ: Arizona voters have narrowly passed a statewide ballot measure regulating the physician-supervised use of marijuana as a medicine.

Election officials on Monday announced that Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, had gained 50.13 percent of the vote. The measure had been trailing in previous vote counts.

The Act removes state-level criminal penalties on the use and possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by patients who have “written certification” from their physician indicating that cannabis may alleviate their condition.

Patients diagnosed with the following illnesses are afforded legal protection under the law: cancer; glaucoma; positive status for HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, or any chronic or debilitating medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis, persistent muscle spasms or seizures, severe nausea or pain. Other conditions will be subject to approval by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Patients who are in compliance with the act may not be disciplined by employers and they may not be criminally charged with DUI solely on the basis of the presence of inactive marijuana metabolites in their urine without further evidence of impairment.

Under the law, the Arizona Department of Health Services has 120 days to adopt rules governing nonprofit dispensaries, which may produce and dispense marijuana to authorized patients on a not-for-profit basis. Neither patients nor their caregivers may legally cultivate marijuana under this act if they reside within 25 miles of an operating, state-licensed not-for-profit dispensary.

A spokesperson from the Arizona Department of Health Services told The Arizona Republic this week that the agency expects to begin authorizing the use and distribution of medical cannabis by April 2011.

Arizona is the fifteenth state since 1996 to approve the medical use of marijuana, and the eleventh to do so via voter initiative.

Full text of the measure is available at: