MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Voters Make The Call In Five States
"One of the most-watched" of the many ballot issues that voters will decide on tomorrow is medical marijuana, appearing as a ballot initiative in five states -- Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the interest group "Americans for Medical Rights, based in California and partly financed by New York philanthropist George Soros, has been at the forefront of the $2 million effort" (Recio, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/1). "The medical evidence points to marijuana's role as medicine," said Director Bill Zimmerman. Advocates have developed a list of specific conditions for which the drug could be used, including glaucoma, cancer and AIDS. The proposals in Alaska, Oregon and Nevada "would establish state registries of patients entitled to use it," with Alaska and Oregon potentially issuing identification cards for that purpose (MSNBC, 11/2). Also, "[t]rying to avoid the legal hassles" created by similar laws in 1996, "advocates wrote these measures more narrowly, specifying the ailments that qualify and that marijuana is the only drug at issue" (Boorstein, AP/Nando Times, 11/1). Nonetheless, White House Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey staunchly opposes the idea. "Proponents of these ballot initiatives present marijuana as a benign substance. However, the latest scientific evidence demonstrates that marijuana is not" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/1).
Yesterday's Arizona Republic reports that a recent poll conducted by the paper shows the Arizona measure leading 43%-40%, with 17% undecided. Proposition 300 would "reinstate" a 1996 law approved by voters, which was "later gutted by state lawmakers" (Murphy, Arizona Republic, 11/1). "Hopefully, Nov. 3, 1998 will be the date they put on the grave of the national war against drugs," said Sam Vagenas of The People Have Spoken, another group active in trying to pass the measure (Perine, Wall Street Journal, 11/2). A poll conducted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KTNV- TV found 52% of voters support the Nevada measure, with 40% opposed and 8% undecided (Vogel/Bates, Las Vegas Review- Journal, 10/30).
- Barbara Bush, in a radio and TV spot for the Drug Free America Foundation: "[W]e are concerned about efforts to legalize marijuana and other illegal substances. Now is not the time to send a message to our young people that marijuana is medicine. It is not. It is a dangerous, illegal drug" (release, 10/30).
- Dr. James Bridges, president of the Dade County [FL] Medical Association: "Marijuana hasn't been subjected to [FDA] scrutiny. Until it is, it must remain what it is -- a widely used but illegal recreational drug. ... Oncologists and other doctors who treat these patients have lost interest in marijuana because more effective pain and anti-nausea medicines have been available for many years" (Miami Herald, 10/31).
- Bill Zimmerman: "It's time to take our collective heads out of the sand and develop a national drug strategy based on common sense. That would include, at a minimum, making marijuana available to patients who might benefit from its medicinal use."
- Barry McCaffrey/Donald Vereen: "We should all seek safe and effective medicine to treat medical ills, but our collective interest is better served when proven, scientific processes -- not the ballot box -- minister to disease" (Washington Times, 11/1).
- National Medical Association/African American Medical Society: Both groups urged Americans against casting their votes in favor of medical marijuana on Tuesday, stating that insufficient safeguards govern the drug's distribution and that the legalization of marijuana is unwarranted without the Food and Drug Administration's determination of purity and dosage guidelines. "What messages are we sending when we tell our children to 'say no' to drugs but yes to 'medical marijuana?' To legalize an addictive drug presents communities of color with a larger threat. We cannot allow our families to continue to be destroyed by addictive drugs that can be labeled as medication" (NMA release/Auxiliary release, 10/30).