2010 Election Update: Cooley Leading In Polls Is Bad News For California Medical Marijuana Patients, AZ’s Prop. 203 Continues To Trail

Though the race for California’s next Attorney General still officially remains undecided, Republican candidate Steve Cooley is now leading Democrat Kamala Harris by some 26,000 votes. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 850,000 ballots — mostly mail-in ballots that arrived in election offices on election day — still need to be counted, and that the race remains far from over.

The race for California Attorney General has significant implications for the distribution of medical cannabis in California, as Cooley has previously pledged to prosecute dispensaries that engage in over-the-counter cash sales of marijuana to authorized patients. In October, while serving as Los Angeles District Attorney, Cooley declared that state law bars sales of medical marijuana, and opined: “The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100%, of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally, they are dealing marijuana illegally. … The time is right to deal with this problem.”

Present Attorney General guidelines, issued under former A.G. (now Governor-elect) Jerry Brown in 2008, authorize the distribution and non-profit sales of medical cannabis in California by qualified “collectives and cooperatives,” but warn that ’storefront’ business that engage in the for-profit sales of medical marijuana “are likely operating outside the protections” of state law. Cooley has long maintained that California dispensaries that engage in over-the-counter sales to customers do not meet a legal definition of ‘collectives’ or ‘not-for-profit’ entities.

By contrast, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has previously voiced strong support for protecting the legal rights of patients who use cannabis medicinally.

In Arizona, Proposition 203 is still trailing — now by some 6,600 votes — with more than 100,000 still remaining to be counted. If passed, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, would permit state-registered patients to obtain cannabis legally from licensed facilities.

Arizonans have twice before — in 1996 and again in 1998 — voted in favor of medical marijuana ballot measures, though neither proposal was ever enacted by the legislature. This year’s proposal was sponsored by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, an affiliate of the Marijuana Policy Project.

In Michigan, voters elected vocal medical marijuana opponent Bill Schuette to be the state’s next Attorney General. Schuette was a vocal opponent against Proposal 1, the 2008 voter initiative that legalized the physician-authorized use of medical cannabis. While running for Attorney General, Schuette continued to campaign against both medical marijuana and broader efforts to halt the prosecution of non-medical consumers. Since the election, however, Schuette has yet to weigh in on whether he will use his office to target and prosecute the state’s emerging medical cannabis dispensaries.

Finally, in Connecticut, state officials have officially declared Democrat Dan Malloy as the state’s next Governor. Malloy had been in an exceedingly close race with Republican opponent Tom Foley.

Malloy has reportedly voiced support for decriminalizing marijuana for adults, and also supports the legalization of medical cannabis. Malloy’s predecessor, Republican M. Jodi Rell, vetoed legislation in 2007 that would have allowed for the legal use of marijuana by those authorized by their physician. In recent years, lawmakers in Connecticut have expressed support for both medical marijuana and decriminalization.

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