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Marijuana advocates rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday in support of legislation to essentially legalize the drug in Arizona, claiming victory for killing one bill that, if approved by voters, would have restricted medical marijuana use.

The advocates claim their outrage played a role in Rep. Jay Lawrence’s decision to pull his bill, which would have banned naturopaths and homeopaths from authorizing use of marijuana for their patients. Lawrence tweeted, “People convinced me that proper care is being taken before a prescription is written.”

Several dozen gathered on the lawn of the House of Representatives, some holding signs that read, “Cannabis Reduces Opiate Overdose,” “Don’t tell my doctor how to do her job!!” and “Cannabis is a Natural Alternate to Harmful Pharma.”

House Bill 2006, introduced by Democratic Rep. Mark Cardenas, would allow those 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and people to purchase it from stores regulated by the state. Those sales would be taxed $50 per ounce. Additionally, people could grow up to five plants on their own.

Cardenas’ bill faces significant hurdles, given his party affiliation and many GOP lawmakers’ opposition to marijuana for various reasons. He told those at the rally he’s going to need their help to get his bill heard by a committee.

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The legislation comes as a campaign to legalize marijuana for recreational use enters its final signature-gathering push to put the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Opponents contend marijuana should not be legalized, saying it is addictive and hazardous. Legalizing the drug and claiming it is safer than alcohol send a dangerous message to the public — particularly youth, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, vice chair of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, wrote in an Arizona Republic letter to the editor.

Seth Leibsohn, with Polk’s group, said of Wednesday’s rally, “Legalization of marijuana in Arizona is a bad idea at every level: for health, education, welfare and decades upon decades of hard work in the prevention field.”

Follow the reporter on Twitter @yvonnewingett and reach her at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4712.

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