Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday voters should reject Proposition 203 at least in part because it would let someone get marijuana with a doctor's recommendation rather than an actual prescription.
But Brewer, who has gone to court to challenge the federal government on other fronts, said she won't do that to defend a 1996 voter-approved Arizona law which actually has a requirement for a prescription - a law that was effectively killed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Brewer, flanked by police officers attending a conference here, said the experience of other states has shown that "medical marijuana" laws are prone to abuse.
"Almost all marijuana recommendations come from a few doctors (who) for, say, $150, will prescribe pot to nearly anyone," the governor said. While she said some people might benefit from marijuana, "compassion will quickly turn to capitalism."
The governor, who is married to a chiropractor, acknowledged that doctors already can prescribe much more dangerous drugs than marijuana. But she said this is different.
"If they want to regulate it like, for instance ... OxyContin, well, then, prescribe it and get it at a pharmacy." Brewer said. "But to open up our neighborhoods and our communities and have doctors out there like they do in California, prescribe medicine for anybody walking by, with billboards out there, ‘Come in here. We've got your prescription for you' and give them $150 and you can go in and get marijuana, it's not the way that we in Arizona want to live," she said.
Backers of Proposition 203 say there are differences between this proposal and the one adopted in California. That includes not only a limit on medical marijuana dispensaries but a specific list of conditions for which the drug can be recommended.
Bill Montgomery, Republican candidate for Maricopa County attorney, said the big loophole there is an allowance for "severe and chronic pain,'' which is not defined.
Arizona voters actually approved a law by a nearly 2-1 margin in 1996 which has some additional constraints.
It allows doctors to prescribe otherwise-illegal drugs, including marijuana.
But it also requires the doctor to "document that scientific research exits which supports the use" of that drug to treat a disease or relieve pain. And a patient who wants such a prescription must first obtain the written opinion of a second doctor.
That law, which was re-ratified in 1998 after state lawmakers tried to undermine it, never got a chance to take effect. That is because the Drug Enforcement Agency said it would revoke all prescription-writing privileges of any physician that wrote an order for any drug the federal government considers illegal, regardless of state law.
Based on the Arizona experience, subsequent ballot measures adopted in other states were crafted to get around that by simply requiring a written "recommendation." That same language exists in Proposition 203.
Brewer, who already is challenging the Obama administration over what she sees as improper federal intrusion, said she wasn't interested in making the same assertion of states' rights on the 1996 law which remains on the books.
"I'm not going to take that obligation on," she said. "I've got plenty on my plate."
Brewer, using power given to her by the Legislature, has made Arizona a plaintiff in a multi-state lawsuit challenging the new federal health care law. She is arguing that Congress and the president exceeded their authority in mandating that individuals obtain health insurance or face a fine, and in requiring states to maintain current eligibility for their Medicaid programs to qualify for future federal dollars.
Separately, Brewer wants federal courts to rule that Arizona has a legal right to enact its own immigration-related laws. A judge has blocked key provisions from taking effect; a federal appeals court will hear the governor's arguments next month.
If approved, Proposition 203 would allow those with a doctor's recommendation to legally obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from one of the approximately 125 dispensaries that could be established around the state. Those dispensaries would obtain their supply from their own cultivation facilities.
Those who live at least 25 miles from a dispensary would be allowed to grow their own marijuana.