In November, Arizona voters are being asked — once more — to allow the production, distribution and consumption of medically prescribed marijuana.

It'd be easy to take the view that Proposition 203 should be defeated. County attorneys, substance abuse counselors and the Department of Health Services are urging voters to "just say 'no,'" in the words of First Lady Nancy Reagan. Marijuana is not proven to be medicinal, they argue. If marijuana is legally grown and distributed in Arizona, more recreational use and abuse is likely. It's a gateway drug to other, more harmful substances. Prop 203 is a guise to allow people to legally smoke pot, they contend.

All that may be true.

It's also hard to dispute that marijuana can help people suffering the effects of debilitating illness and its treatment. Those with multiple sclerosis or HIV/AIDS, and those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, as examples, find relief from nausea and improved appetites when they smoke weed. When you read the story of Heather Torgerson, who chairs the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project and claims medical marijuana saved her life after diagnosis with brain cancer, it's hard not to be moved.

Matters of public policy are more interesting when there is inherent, fundamental conflict within a question, and such is the case with medical marijuana. Salient points can be made on both sides of the argument. Valid reasons for and against Prop 203 are clearly conceived.

America can't ever come to real grips with recreational substances. What's the country's most abused drug? It's alcohol, by a mile, causing billions of dollars in lost income and increased expense, and shattering far more lives than marijuana does. Alcohol, of course, is legal, and while we don't turn a back to its ruinous power, we are accepting of it.

Not so with pot … even though more states are gradually liberalizing their laws, and putting in place proper regulations.

Our neighbor to the west, California, may be about to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, and to allow limited cultivation. If that happens, there'll be plenty of people headed to California for their weed … and, in effect, the Arizona medical marijuana prospect would be dealt a competitive blow.

There's just too much hand-wringing and anxiety about medical marijuana, legitimate or otherwise. Governments and society have enough to overwhelm them without one more sticky, quasi-legal substance in their jurisdictions. That's why we would suggest defeat of Prop 203.


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