What an interesting state. No to Mexicans. No to Martin Luther King Day. But in a super narrow margin, Proposition 203, legalizing medical marijuana, passed by just 4,341 votes out of more than 1.67 million ballots counted.

The approval came as something of a surprise. We even reported that it was more than likely not passing. At one point on election day, the measure trailed by about 7,200 votes. The gap gradually narrowed until it edged ahead during counting on Friday. The final tally was 841,346 in favor and 837,005 opposed.

“We really believe that we have an opportunity to set an example to the rest of the country on what a good medical marijuana program looks like,” said Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project.

The Arizona measure will allow patients with diseases that include cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C and other “chronic or debilitating” diseases that meet the guidelines to grow plants or the ability to buy up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

Like the other states where it is legal, patients must obtain a recommendation from their doctor and register with the Arizona Department of Health Services. Arizona law allows for no more than 124 marijuana dispensaries in the state.

Supporters of Prop 203 argued that thousands of patients faced “a terrible choice” of suffering with a serious and sometimes even terminal illness or going the street route (illegal) for their marijuana. The group collected more than 252,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot, nearly 100,000 more than what was required.

Obviously, the measure was opposed by law enforcement, including Arizona’s sheriffs and county prosecutors, the governor, the state attorney general and many other politicians. So this decision must really sting!

Carolyn Short, chairwoman of Keep AZ Drug Free, the group that organized opposition to the initiative, said her group believed that the law would increase crime around dispensary locations, lead to more people driving while impaired and eventually lead to legalized marijuana for everyone. She didn’t explain where she came up with any facts that support any of this.

She also said that the major financial backer of the new measure, the Marijuana Policy Project, makes its ultimate goal clear: national legalization. WOW…we should only be so lucky!

“All of the political leaders came out and warned Arizonans that this was going to have very dire effects on a number of levels,” Ms. Short said after votes for the measure pulled into the lead late Friday. “I don’t think that all Arizonans have heard those dire predictions.”

prma