PHOENIX (BP)--A proposition that will legalize medicinal marijuana in Arizona has passed in a come-from-behind victory, making the state the 15th nationwide to legalize pot for such use.
Proposition 203, as it was known, trailed by nearly 7,000 votes the day after the election and trailed for more than a week as the updated tally was released each day, but it took the lead for the first time Nov. 12 and ended up winning by a margin of 4,341 out of more than 1.65 million votes.
Critics said marijuana legalization was unnecessary and argued it would lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana. That nearly happened in California, where voters defeated Prop 19, which would have legalized marijuana for any purposes.
Critics also charged Prop 203 has loopholes that will allow marijuana to be used for purposes that voters would not have approved. The text of Prop 203 lists a series of conditions for which marijuana can be used -- cancer and AIDS, for instance -- and then says marijuana can also be given to anyone who has "severe and chronic pain" or "severe and persistent muscle spasms." The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposed Prop 203.
Elsewhere, South Dakota voters defeated a medicinal marijuana proposal on Election Day.
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said states should reject pro-medicinal marijuana arguments.
"States that pass medical marijuana laws need to understand that they have chosen a path that will lead relentlessly to the complete decriminalization of marijuana," Duke previously told Baptist Press. "The medical marijuana issue is simply the wedge that cracks open the door. Once the public has accepted the idea of the legal use of marijuana, the groups favoring decriminalization know that it is just a matter of time before they achieve their objective."
Duke warned that the combination of "legality and familiarity" with medicinal marijuana "will lead to its greater acceptance by the public."
"The result is that more people, especially youth, will be emboldened to use the drug," Duke said. "Many of these people will pay a terrible price as their drug habits consume their lives and their futures. My heart aches for the millions of parents who will suffer countless years being brokenhearted over the drug abuse problems of a child who believed society's lax attitude toward the drug suggested that it was safe."
Opponents of medicinal marijuana in Arizona and South Dakota made several arguments, including saying its legalization is unnecessary because an FDA-approved drug, dronabinol (sold as Marinol), contains THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana. They also said the law would be abused, and they pointed to California and Montana -- two states where medicinal marijuana is legal -- as examples.
Marijuana is easily accessible in California, even for those who are not experiencing severe pain, experts in the state say. The law lists a series of specific ailments that can be aided by medicinal marijuana and then adds a giant loophole allowing medicinal marijuana usage for "any other illness for which marijuana provides relief."
In Montana, between 2008 and 2010, the number of citizens registered to use medicinal marijuana jumped from 842 to nearly 20,000, the Associated Press reported. Just as troubling: 25 percent of medicinal marijuana users in Montana are between the ages of 21 and 30, and Missoula and Bozeman -- both home to universities -- have the highest percentage of users, AP reported.
Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.
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