Tokin' Resistance

Proposition 200 -- the Drug Medicalization Act -- is causing high anxiety among politicians and lawmen

Others have gone so far as to try linking Soros to Colombian drug cartels. One of those was Louis Tambs, a Reagan-era appointee who served as U.S. ambassador to Colombia during the mid-1980s.

Tambs, a minor player in the Iran-contra scandal, is now retired and teaching history at Arizona State University. He made the allegation during a mid-October debate, and it cropped up again in the October 18 issue of the Yellow Sheet Report, a strictly controlled political newsletter. Tambs did not return calls requesting an interview.

Tambs' allegations, though, never gained steam. Neither did the rest of the measure's opposition. The silence was so overwhelming as the election neared that it prompted the Arizona Republic to run a page-one story headlined "Lawmen Relatively Silent on Prop. 200."

The opposition Committee for a Drug-Free Arizona didn't file organizational papers with the secretary of state until late September, just weeks before the election.

By that time, the pro-200 machine had already been up and running for almost a year. Its hired petition gatherers had blanketed the state, its ads had saturated the TV and radio airwaves.

"They had ads with little old ladies and these retired law-and-order types saying, 'Even I can see that the war on drugs is a failure,'" Lawless says with grudging admiration. "I mean, who's gonna argue with that?"

And 200's supporters had met with some of the state's more high-profile law-and-order types, from the governor on down.

"We never made any secret about what we were trying to do," says Vagenas. "We met with these people, they had the chance to read the initiative. They knew what was happening."

But they never acted. Their absence is conspicuous even in the 70-page voters' guide published by the state. The section devoted to Proposition 200 is thick with seven arguments for the initiative, signed by everyone from DeConcini to more than a dozen doctors to former lawmen and sitting judges.

The only argument against the measure was signed by representatives from the Libertarian party, who felt the measure didn't go far enough in decriminalizing drugs. "If you want real, meaningful drug reform," the Libertarians argued, "then stop prosecuting people for using drugs. Control the sale of drugs just as we now control the sale of alcohol and tobacco."

So why did leaders in a state with a tradition of getting tough on crime suddenly turn to stone in the face of Proposition 200?

The answer may never be completely known. But those closest to the measure concede that Proposition 102, the juvenile-crime measure, had more than a little to do with it.

Vagenas and Lawless agree that Proposition 102 was the political lightning rod during the election. The measure siphoned off most of the news coverage and the dollars that likely would have been spent battling Proposition 200.

What little money--$32,000--Lawless and his fellow opponents did manage to raise to battle Proposition 200 came from a source that hardly helped bolster their credibility as spokesmen for a drug-free Arizona. According to financial disclosure statements, the three largest contributors to Lawless' committee were the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, Coors Brewing Company and the Arizona Wholesale Beer and Liquor Association.

Jim Mulcahy has the kind of face that Melville must have envisioned when he conjured Ahab: Ruddy. Pug-nosed. Weather-beaten.

Mulcahy sailed the world in the merchant marine during World War II. He's plied the Great Lakes on the deck of a coal barge. He's twisted wrenches and dug ditches and done just about every other kind of job you can think of.

Mulcahy left the sea behind in 1976, and weighed anchor in Arizona.
He suffers from glaucoma, and says the disease has stricken many of his family members, including his 38-year-old daughter, Sharon Harrington.

Mulcahy would seem as unlikely a proponent of marijuana as you could hope to find--a fact he's swift to acknowledge.

He tells of the day several years ago when a well-dressed, professional-looking woman walked up to him while he was gathering signatures for a doomed effort to legalize marijuana.

"She was outraged," he remembers. "She said, 'Look at you--you should know better!'"

A card-carrying member of Arizonans for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or AZ4NORML--Glaucoma Jim is also a member--Mulcahy will hold forth at great length about the promise of hemp, an industrial form of marijuana that was grown commercially in the U.S. until World War II and was used to make everything from parachute harnesses to rope.

The fiber was deemed so important to the war effort that the government commissioned Hemp for Victory, a public-service film imploring farmers to do their part by growing hemp; the film has achieved a cult status among the plant's contemporary supporters. Today, hemp's proponents tout it as an environmentally safe alternative to everything from plastics to fossil fuels.

But it is marijuana's medical applications that are of the most interest to Mulcahy. He and his daughter reel off stories of others they have met through AZ4NORML who are far worse off than they--people with cancer who use marijuana to keep their food down, people with AIDS who use it to ease their suffering.

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