KNAU and Arizona News
4:11 pm
Thu February 18, 2010

State voters may be able to create a medical marijuana law

Phoenix, AZ – The initiative drive would allow anyone with a written
certification from a doctor to buy up to 2 1/2 ounces of
marijuana every two weeks. Senate Minority Leader Jorge Garcia
said he personally supports the measure.

(A number of folks that I've spoken to in my work as a social
worker, they say that they use marijuana. It helps them to
release some stressors, to deal with the nausea associated with
medications.)

But Garcia said his proposal this is really all about money. He
pointed out the law was specifically written to have doctors
certify patients. That's designed to get around threats by the
Drug Enforcement Administration to penalize doctors who prescribe
marijuana. So Garcia figured that if it's not a prescription it
should be taxed. So how much would it raise? Legislative budget
analysts studied California which already has a marijuana law.
Looking at per capita consumption there and extrapolating it to
Arizona, they figured annual sales in the neighborhood of $25
million a year. That would generate about $1.3 million in state
sales taxes. Garcia's bill has the backing of the initiative
circulators. Campaign manager Andrew Meyers said they already
presumed that the drugs, which would be sold from state-regulated
dispensaries, would be taxes. Anyway, Meyers actually sees a
benefit from what Garcia is trying to do. He said if voters know
the marijuana will be taxed, it might give them another reason to
vote for the initiative.

(Them passing this makes it clear that enacting a medical
marijuana law is not only the right thing to do for patients but
will also help pay for social services, like police on the
streets, where the current policies ensure that only the
underground market benefits from the sale of marijuana, even
marijuana sold to patients.)

But that is exactly why some members of the Senate Finance
Committee, asked to approve the tax on Wednesday, voted against
it. That includes Jack Harper.

(I feel that enacting the tax preemptively would encourage the
general public to pass the citizens initiative, which I am not in
favor of. I don't think that the citizens should be prodded by
saying, look, if you legalize marijuana it'll also help with our
fiscal problems.)

And Sen. Russell Pearce said letting people smoke marijuana
legally is probably the last thing the state would want to do
while it's trying to increase productivity. The initiative
contains a list of medical conditions that would let a doctor
write a certification for a patient for treatment with marijuana,
ranging from glaucoma and AIDS to chronic or debilitating
conditions that lead to severe and chronic pain, severe nausea,
seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms. But Sen. Ron
Gould said the experience in California proves that's just a
smokescreen.

(Both my sister-in-law and my nephew have medical marijuana
cards. I don't think it takes a whole lot to get a medical
marijuana card in California, since it's not really about a
medical condition. It's about legalization.)

Not everyone who would be entitled to buy marijuana if the
initiative becomes law would be paying that tax. The proposal
says those who live at least 25 miles from the nearest marijuana
dispenary are entitled to grow their own from seeds. The measure
cleared the committee on a 4-3 vote, sending it to the full
Senate. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.