Again, because of some good comments below on my prior Ballot Proposition Recommendations post, I have decided to expound on Prop. 107 (post below) and Prop. 203 (relating to medical marijuana).
Prop. 203 creates a new regulatory system for the distribution and oversight of medical marijuana for patients with a prescription from a physician for certain types of specific ailments, such as chronic pain. The new regulations would be governed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The Confusion: A couple commenters on my blog, or since they are anonymous it might be just one, called me naive on the subject of pain management via marijuana and that I was attempting to mislead people into thinking it was more harmful than it might be. That argument was supplemented by the statement that prescription drugs are, in some cases, as or more addictive than marijuana, and that no one ever died from smoking it (though, considering a research study published in the BMJ medical journal showed that persons driving after using marijuana was twice as likely to be involved in fatal car crashes as "sober" people, I would challenge that).
What I Found Out: The federal Food and Drug Administration released results in 2006 of their study on the medicinal uses of cannabis and the risk-reward factor in using it as a prescription drug to treat ailments. It says that marijuana is a schedule 1 drug (the most restrictive category) because of three criteria: it has a high potential for abuse, has no currently proven acceptable medical use, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Scientific studies by the FDA and other Department of Health and Human Services agencies found that "no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."
AZ FactCheck on http://www.azcentral.com/ similarly reports that the US Drug Enforcement Agency, American Cancer Society, American Glaucoma Society, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society all state on their respective websites that medical marijuana may provide some benefits to patients with chronic illnesses, but that there are also negative effects that go along with those benefits. All but the DEA cite the need for better research before openly allowing medical marijuana. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Agency states that medical marijuana - or at least the part of it that helps manage pain called THC (the "active ingredient" in marijuana) - already exists in pill form called Marinol. While this pill has the same benefits as actually smoking the plants, it may also have negative side effects.
The argument really boils down to this, now that I know that pill-form marijuana exists and is approved by the FDA: proponents of 203 want to SMOKE pot. If this issue were really about the medicinal value of the plant, there already exist pain management medications and weight loss and appetite stimulants (like Marinol). While such pain meds like Vicodin or Oxycontin do have the potential to be addictive, they are much more controllable than marijuana, which has a high potential and probability for abuse by both prescribed users and non-prescribed users. Considering the valid FDA and DEA claims that marijuana's benefits do not at this time outweigh the potential negative effects of the drug, the only conclusion I can reach is that medical marijuana (the plant) is not an appropriate narcotic to use for medicinal purposes.
The Bottom Line: Medical marijuana provides little reward for potentially greater risk. Regardless of the passage of Prop 203, the federal government will continue to pursue and prosecute individuals using marijuana. Also, considering how hard it is to make something harmful illegal versus making something legal, if marijuana is found to have a negative impact on the state, it will be really difficult to repeal Prop. 203 in the future to fix the problem. Better to just vote no and leave this drug a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, illegal in the country and in the State of Arizona.