The Arizona Republic published an interesting point-counterpoint on Sunday about the half-way implementation of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). In Q and A format, the Republic polled two of the leaders of the groups that supported and opposed Proposition 203 in the run up to the November 2010 election.
Representing the victorious Arizona Medical Marijuana Association was Joe Yuhas. For its victory, his Association finds itself a defendant in the federal lawsuit that Governor Jan Brewer filed in April that brought a halt to implementing the dispensary system that is an integral part of the AMMA.
On behalf of the losing political action group in the Prop. 203 fight, Keep AZ Drug Free, was Carolyn Short.
On this Q, their respective answers definitely showed their political stripes:
Q. Will Arizonans ever see full implementation of Prop. 203?
Yuhas' A: Yes. . . . The pace of it is debatable.
Short's A: Not a chance. Pretty much everybody thinks that.
Yuhas' message is one that Arizoneout has delivered a few times. The current situation is the worst of all worlds. In Yuhas' words, "At some point the piecemeal implementation of Prop. 203 is going to be recognized as adverse to the overall interest of patients and the community."
Most of the 13,000-plus Arizonans who have been granted a state license to use marijuana to treat a debilitating medical condition or symptom also have been granted permission to grow their own. The AMMA would permit 126 dispensaries, which would be required to have security, inventory control, and otherwise be subject to state monitoring.
According to Yuhas: "Arizonans would prefer to have a dispensary in their community that's regulated than to have an unlimited number of people growing it themselves."
Short does not argue to the contrary. Instead, she sees medical marijuana as a ruse that uses physicians and sick people to facilitate recreational use. "If people want to have marijuana in this country for recreational use, then they're going to have to change federal law. And I don't think that's going to happen," she says.
Short may want to be a little less certain of the future of federal legislation. On October 17, 2011, the Gallup organization announced that according to its annual data, 50% of Americans now say that the use of marijuana should be made legal.
Gallup has asked the question every year since 1969, when the polling was 84% against legalization. The trend in favor of legalization has picked up speed over the years, hitting 30% in 2000, and 40 percent in 2009. In 2010, Gallup's data showed 46 percent of Americans favored legalization.
Another Gallup survey in 2010 found that fully 70 percent of Americans support the medical use of marijuana if recommended by a doctor.
What that says to Arizoneout is that legal medical marijuana is here to stay in workplaces all around the state. The dispensary skirmish is likely to play out for months or years, but Arizona employers need to come to grips now with the fact that legal marijuana users exist in their current or future workforce, and they are not going anywhere.