National Families in Action
A Guide to Drug-Related State Ballot Initiatives






State Rankings

Back to NFIA

Search NFIA


Full Text

Arizona Proposition 203
The Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act of 2002


The People Have Spoken




Battleground Arizona


Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, The Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act of 1996. This Act, sponsored by Arizonans for Drug Policy Reform and funded by George Soros, Peter Lewis, and John Sperling, legalized all Schedule I drugs as medicine. It also mandated that judges send convicted nonviolent drug offenders to treatment, prohibited judges from sending offenders to jail until their third conviction, and established a parents council and a drug treatment and prevention fund.

The Arizona Legislature subsequently repealed some of the provisions in the Act in 1997, creating two initatives, Propositions 300 and 301, for voters to ratify in the 1998 election.

Supporters retaliated. Still funded by the Soros group, they changed their name from Arizonans for Drug Policy Reform to The People Have Spoken and sponsored a new initiative, Proposition 105, to overturn the Legislature’s actions. This initiative passed.

The People Have Spoken, again funded by the Soros group, came back in 2000 with Proposition 201, which would have decriminalized two ounces of marijuana for all use, not just medical use. However, fearing they would not be able to defend legal challenges to the proposition’s poorly written language, proponents withdrew the petition before collecting enough signatures to place it on the ballot.

The People Have Spoken is back in 2002, again funded by the Soros group, with a rewritten version of Proposition 201, this one called Proposition 203.



1. Decriminalizes marijuana possession and cultivation for any use.

Possessing 2 ounces of marijuana (170 joints), growing or possessing 2 marijuana plants, and possessing drug paraphernalia will be subject to civil penalties only and a $250 fine.

If previously convicted 3 or more times in past 2 years, fine increases to $750, but Court must waive it if person successfully completes a drug education program.

“Increases funding for treatment and education” by providing that all civil fines imposed for marijuana possession will be deposited in the Drug Treatment and Education Fund.

2. Removes Court control of all nonviolent drug offenders.

Restores parole provisions of 1996 act, which the Legislature repealed in 1997. A Court may not impose any sanction that involves jail or prison as a condition of probation.

Releases from prison everyone convicted of a nonviolent drug offense before 1996 and places them on probation. Releases from prison everyone convicted of a nonviolent drug offense after 1996 and places them in community supervision.

Removes all definitions of “personal use and possession” of a controlled substance from Arizona Controlled Substances Act.

“Expands sentencing reforms” by increasing penalties by 50% for violent crimes committed under the influence of a controlled substance that result in “serious injury or death.” Requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to establish that a person is under the influence of a controlled substance.

Courts cannot count a prior conviction as a prior conviction if a person successfully completed a previous course of drug education or drug treatment.

3. Legalizes marijuana for medical use.

“Acknowledges that there is a legitimate medical use for marijuana” and asks voters rather than scientists, doctors, and the Food and Drug Administration, to approve marijuana as a safe and effective medicine.

Changes the word “prescribe” to the word “recommed” in an effort to avoid conflict with Federal law prohibiting prescription of unapproved drugs.

Exempts medical marijuana patients from any fines. Allows patients to possess 2 ounces, 2 plants, and drug paraphernalia every 30 days. Also allows caregiver to possess 2 ounces, 2 plants, and drug paraphernalia every 30 days. If either possesses more than this amount, permits a medical necessity defense. This means that a single patient with a “debilitating disease” may legally possess 340 joints per month, 11 to 12 joints per day.

Requires the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the University of Mississippi (which NIDA contracts with to grow research-grade marijuana) to provide research-grade marijuana to all Arizona residents who qualify for medical marijauana.

Requires State Department of Public Safety to distribute NIDA’s research-grade marijuana and all marijuana grown and seized in Arizona to all citizens who hold a patient registry card issued by the Arizona Department of Health.

Allows citizens to petition State Department of Health to add to list of “debilitating diseases” for which medical marijuana might provide relief.

4. Repeals mandatory minimum sentences for possession of any controlled substance.

5. Repeals civil forfeiture. A person must be convicted of a crime before property can be seized.

6. Repeals drug paraphernalia laws.


People Have Spoken  
Cash as of 10/4/02  
Peter Lewis $129,077.00
George Soros $406,467.00
John Sperling $590,383.00
Total Cash to Date $1,125,927.00
In-Kind as of 10/4/02  
Drug Policy Foundation-
Lindesmith Center*
$14, 414.12
Drug Policy Alliance $20, 415.08
Total to Date $34,829.20
Battleground Arizona  
Cash as of 10/4/02  
Lanelle B. Robson Foundation $10,000.00
Viad Corporation $25,000.00
Arizona County Attorney & Sheriffs' Association $25,000.00
Total Cash to Date $60,000.00
* Merged to become the Drug Policy Alliance


What Proponents Say
  "No sooner had the ink dried on the governor's signature making this law in 1996 than the Arizona politicians sought to repeal the will of the voters. We had to take them to the ballot again in 1998, which we won, and the last step to ensure that the people have spoken is Proposition 203. . . . Proposition 203 will expand the voter-mandated drug treatment programs and remedy a broken medical marijuana law."

John Norton, former deputy secretary of agriculture and chairman, The People Have Spoken, Arizona Republic, September 15, 2002

"It is impossible to imagine how we can deprive terminally and seriously ill patients in my position from the medicine they need to reduce, if not eliminate, the symptoms of their disease."

Josh Burner, Mesa, Arizona Republic, September 15, 2002.

More proponent commentary


What Opponents Say

"To highlight what Proposition 203 does: (1) It decriminalizes marijuana, (2) it takes away the need for a doctor to prescribe marijuana for an illness; and (3) finally, and perhaps the most bizarre, it will require the Department of Public Safety to give (yes, for free) marijuana to anyone claiming a medical need."

Richard Romley, Maricopa County Attorney, Phoenix, Arizona Republic, September 15, 2002

"As the criminal justice adviser to Governor Hull, I have real problems, as you should, with taking valuable resources that the Department of Public Safety currently uses to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe, fight gangs and investigate terrorism, and shifting them to establish a state-run drug distribution center."

George Weisz, Office of the Governor, Arizona Republic, September 15, 2002

More opponent commentary



On Ballot 



Compared to other states, Arizona ranks:
15th (tied with 2 other states) in past-month drug use
16th in marijuana use
  6th (tied with 5 other states) in drug use other than marijuana
  7th (tied with 3 other states) in past-year drug dependence
  7th (tied with 2 other states) in drug or alcohol dependence
(1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse)

Details, Use
Details, Dependence

About Site Map Privacy
© Copyright 2001 National Families in Action. All rights reserved.
Questions? Write to