Poll suggests medical marijuana will pass - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Poll suggests medical marijuana will pass

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Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 6:15 pm | Updated: 5:06 pm, Thu Oct 14, 2010.

Arizonans appear to be ready to approve medical marijuana for the third time.

A new statewide poll shows 52 percent of likely voters in support of Proposition 203. Only 33 percent are opposed, with the balance undecided.

Pollster Earl de Berge also found the 405 likely voters he questioned earlier this month leaning in favor of Proposition 106. Billed as a constitutional guarantee of the right to control health care, one of its main goals is to undermine the mandate in the new federal health law that every person obtain insurance coverage.

But the race is still up in the air over Proposition 109 to provide state constitutional protections for the right to hunt and fish.

Proposition 203 would allow anyone with a doctor's recommendation to get up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. The measure lists specific ailments for which the drug could be recommended.

The drug would be distributed at one of the approximately 125 dispensaries that would be allowed. Those living at least 25 miles from one of those sites would be permitted to grow their own.

There also is a provision in the measure saying that workers who have one of the medical marijuana cannot be disciplined or fired solely for testing positive for the drug. Instead, an employer would have to show the employee was actually impaired or had taken the drug during work hours.

Support for the measure almost directly correlates to age and political philosophy.

Among all registered voters, 67 percent of those younger than 35 say they intend to vote for the proposition. That drops to 59 percent of those 35 through 54, and just 41 percent of older voters.

Similarly, the proposal is backed by 66 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents, versus just 40 percent of Republicans. The survey of likely voters has a 4.9 point margin of error.

Arizonans approved a similar measure in 1996 but found it thwarted by legislative action. They re-approved it in 1998 along with another measure precluding lawmakers from tinkering with voter-approved measures.

But the law never was used because both versions required a prescription by a doctor. And the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency threatened to revoke all prescription-writing privileges of any physician who wrote such an order for marijuana which remains illegal under federal law.

Proposition 203 gets around that by instead requiring only a "recommendation,'' a tactic now used in laws in more than a dozen other states. The Obama administration also has said it will not use federal drug laws to try to undermine medical marijuana laws.

On paper, Proposition 106 would add language to the Arizona Constitution precluding any law or rule that compels any individual or employer to participate in any health care system. It also would guarantee the right to pay directly for health care or to buy health insurance.

Backers say they want to preclude the kind of mandate in the federal law that requires individual to have insurance or pay a fine. Opponents argue it could undermine efforts for affordable universal health care.

It remains unclear, though, whether a state constitutional provision would trump federal law.

Proposition 106 is backed by 43 percent of the 405 likely voters questioned for all three measures, against 30 percent opposed.

Politics plays a role in attitudes here: The more conservative that people describe themselves, the more likely they are to be in support of the measure. More Democrats oppose it than support it; the situation is reverse for Republicans, with independents nearly evenly split.

Proposition 109 would constitutionally preclude adoption of any law or rules that "unreasonably restricts hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife or the use of traditional means and methods.'' It also declares that lawful hunting and fishing is "a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.''

The measure is backed by hunting groups and the National Rifle Association amid concerns that lawmakers -- or voters through the initiative process -- may approve new bans or restrictions. That occurred in then past when voters approved a ban on steel-jawed leg-hold traps on public lands.

Foes, including the Sierra Club and the Humane Society of the United States, said hunting should not be granted special protections from initiatives.

The survey found 39 percent of likely voters in favor and 36 percent opposed, well within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error. The biggest margin of support came from voters in the 13 rural counties.

Self-described conservatives were more likely to support Proposition 109 than liberals.

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