Sun, Feb. 23

Kavanagh can't find votes to put medical marijuana back on ballot

PHOENIX -- The state's more than 38,000 medical marijuana users are in no danger of losing their medication, at least not at the ballot box.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said Wednesday he cannot drum up enough support among legislative colleagues for his bid to ask voters next year to rescind Arizona's 2010 Medical Marijuana Act. That not only kills the plan for this year but also makes it unlikely to be resurrected next year.

The problem, Kavanagh said, is political.

"The majority of the members oppose medical marijuana,' he told Capitol Media Services.

"But there are a lot of people who have expressed concern that that (ballot measure) would bring out people who would not vote Republican in the November election,' Kavanagh said. And he said some GOP lawmakers feel that could result in Democrats picking up strength in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Kavanagh was clearly miffed at the injection of politics into what he sees as a public health and safety matter.

"I think that is a cold, calculating and, from a policy perspective, poor criteria for supporting something,' he said. "But that's the political reality.'

The 2010 law allows those with a doctor's recommendation to get a state-issued card allowing them to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from a state-licensed dispensary. The most recent report from the state Department of Health Services showed 38,506 cardholders as of April 16.

Kavanagh, a former police officer, called it bad public policy to allow voters and not the Food and Drug Administration to decide what is medicine.

He also pointed out that the measure was approved by a narrow margin -- just 4,340 votes out of more than 1.6 million votes cast. Kavanagh argued the results would have been different had foes had the time and finances to mount a proper campaign -- the kind of campaign he was trying to engineer for 2014.

Kavanagh said there is one way of killing the Arizona law: Have the federal government enforce the Controlled Substances Act which makes the possession and sale of marijuana a federal felony.

So far, though, the position of the U.S. Department of Justice is that going after medical marijuana users where that is legal under state law is not a high priority given the government's limited resources. Kavanagh sniffed at that excuse.

"One raid on one clinic and Phoenix would shut the whole operation down, especially if they seized the building from the owner,' he said. But Kavanagh said he's not holding his breath that will happen.

"I guess the federal government is too busy bugging news reporters and distributing guns to Mexican cartels to actually enforce the law within their borders,' he said.

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