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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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1/1/2013 4:16:00 PM
Teens score pot from medical marijuana cardholders

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Close to one out of every eight high schoolers who admitted to smoking marijuana recently say they got it from a medical marijuana cardholder.

The biennial study done by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission found that nearly 29 percent of students in grades 10 through 12 admitted to having smoked marijuana at some point. And more than 14 percent said they had inhaled in the last 30 days.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority said they had obtained the drug from a friend, with family and relatives also a major source.

But 11.6 percent said they got the marijuana from one of the more than 33,000 individuals who have the state's permission to legally grow or purchase marijuana for their own medical conditions. Because the survey allows multiple responses, that could include friends and family members.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said the response could have been foretold.

"I don't think people should be surprised by the fact that easier access to marijuana by medical card holders will lead to easier abuse by minors,' he said.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Mongtomery, who is trying to shut down the whole program, concurred.

"When you wind up with a purported medical marijuana system that in reality is a recreational use system, I would say that this is a foreseeable consequence,' he said. And Montgomery said he believes that Arizona will see the same sort of increase in unauthorized teen use that has been recorded in other states with medical marijuana laws.

Cory Nelson, a deputy assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services which administers the medical marijuana program, said his agency is paying attention to the numbers of teens who said they got the drugs from a cardholder. But Nelson said people should not lose sight of other numbers in the report.

"We've got almost 80 percent who say they're getting it from friends, and another 15 percent that say they're getting it from family,' he said. "So we need to make sure we are looking at all those areas and not just the one.'

Nelson said, though, he is not minimizing the problem.

"If people are giving away their marijuana, they certainly are committing a crime ... in providing that substance to somebody that's not authorized to have it.'

Montgomery said one thing he would be interested in learning is whether the cardholder who is providing the marijuana is a fellow teen or an adult.

In general, the 2010 Arizona law allows adults who have a doctor's recommendation to get a state-issued ID card allowing them to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. But the law also allows parents or guardians to obtain a recommendation for a minor child, albeit with some additional hurdles.

The question that remains is whether police or prosecutors can do much about this aspect of the problem.

"When you have a juvenile who is in possession of marijuana, it's not a standard course of questioning to ask, 'Where did you get it from?' ' Montgomery said. "You'd have to have someone volunteer information about where they procured the marijuana.'

Unklesbay said that arrests of individuals for having small amounts of marijuana are rare.

He said some people get charged with possession if they're already being arrested for something else and the marijuana charge "just gets tacked on.' In other circumstances, though, if someone is found with a small amount of the drug, it is likely to result in nothing more than a citation to show up in city court "and no follow-up investigation is done.'

Unklesbay said it is up to police to find out why a minor has marijuana and whether they got it from a legal cardholder.

"They can use the juvenile's statement to go after the adult who transfers it,' he said. "I think they'd be interested in that kind of abuse of the medical certificate.'

Nelson said that, aside from criminal penalties, any cardholder who gives away or sells marijuana to someone not authorized to have it faces loss of the card. He acknowledged, though, that can require a full-blown hearing.

Repeated calls to Joe Yuhas, spokesman for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, the group that pushed the 2010 initiative, were not returned. Neither were calls to the national Marijuana Policy Project which provided some of the funding for the campaign.

Attorney General Tom Horne, who also opposes the law, said the findings in the report about teen use and where they get it is consistent with other information about the medical marijuana program.

"The number of young males with medical cards is all out of proportion to the number of young males that suffer from the kinds of ailments that we're supposed to be giving cards for,' he said, calling the law "badly abused.'

Figures from the health department show nearly three-fourths of all cardholders are male, with nearly half of cardholders younger than 40.

Close to 90 percent of patients approved for use of the drug are complaining of chronic pain; the closest second is nausea at 7.5 percent.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: To who was first in line

This law was voted against by many MJ users and growers. The only reason some of us voted for this ridiculously restrictive law was we knew folks like you would have viewed it as a mandate against MJ in general.

Smoking pot is not like getting drunk as you seem to think. It does not make you drive crazy. It does not make you use guns to kill people. It does not make you violent.

Why do you think that teens will get guns and kill other teens because they smoked some pot?

And how do you know what kind of pain other people are in? You seem to have fallen victim to the old 'reefer madness' propaganda.

I am more scared of someone as willfully and purposely ignorant as you driving or having a gun.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Rsepectfully.. said

Really? I am shocked at this poorly calculated journalism. Please stop...people will continue to smoke until the end of the dawn..period. Fro you that wrote this article...tell me do you drink wine...get drunk at weddings? How come people that need it have to fight for it...and you can purchase yours over the counter. This article is 100% Propoganda

Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2013
Article comment by: John Doe

I'm not sure what the big fuss is over. Ask kids the same question in regards to where they obtain prescription pills such as xanax or vicodin or other prescription drugs that can get you high and I'm willing to be at least 10% come from valid prescription holders as well. Maybe even a higher %.

90% getting their pot from sources other than legitmate card holders seems pretty normal and reasonable to me. There's always gonna be some sort of abuse/black market going on with prescription drugs. 10% doesn't seem alarming to me.

Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

"Close to one out of every eight high schoolers who admitted to smoking marijuana recently say they got it from a medical marijuana cardholder."

Oh so . . . like . . . "say."

High schoolers just "SAY" they got it from MM cardholders and it is so?

Is that like . . .

"I did not sleep with that woman."
"Read my lips . . . no new taxes."
or ANYTHING that came out of Romney's mouth recently?

Will this "PROOF" hold up to scientific scrutiny or in a court of law?

YEAH . . . I thought so.

Nothing but PROPAGANDA.

Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013
Article comment by: flaco comir

I am very skeptical of this claim from the obvious fact Arizona has not had operating dispensaries until about a month ago! One cause could be because of the lack of operating dispensaries, MJ card-holders are allowed to cultivate their own. So if mom, dad or the war veteran uncle has 12 MM growing in the garage and is at work from 9 to 5 - how hard is it for the kids to go trim a "bud" off one of the plants? The more dispensaries and less home- grow situations would prevent that - as long as the card holder's do their part. Arizona has the toughest criteria for MM cards and compared to California it's not even remotely an example of abuse. How many teens drink from the home liquor cabinet? Or take a Oxy from the bathroom med cab?

Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Jane

Let's do a study to find out where kids are getting their cigarettes

Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013
Article comment by: Who Was First in Line

Come on folks... anybody with any sense should have known this would get to be just an EASIER way for our youth to obtain MJ. I even bet those first in line to vote yes, were your drug users and dealers! Some of you think it's fine to consume it, but the simple fact is kids will smoke it then drive, or get into a mood to where they will push the limits to what they would have normally never ever have considered doing before. Yes.. your excuses are correct in that teens have been smoking MJ by way of drug dealers. But why would you think it's okay for them NOW to smoke it just because they are not paying for it? Because now they get it from a family member? Maybe you'll babysit them so they don't drive? Giving teens MUCH easier ways to obtain a drug is NOT a good idea, what so we can have more of them going around shooting other teens.. MJ is a mind altering drug. We seen different newscast showing the folks lined up for thier first batch of MJ.. heck, most that were in line were young teen-20 something males who looked high to begin with. Well I guess those of you who think it's okay for your non-medical-need children to consume MJ, we just hope you lock up your guns and hide the car keys. Letting kids and mentally ill adults have extremly much easier means to obtain mj WILL have serious effects to others around them.. give it time.

Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013
Article comment by: Surprise! Surprise!

Really? Anybody is surprised by this? Some are actually enjoying this! Job security, you know. Get 'em hooked a little earlier, and you'll have a job for the rest of your life - selling pot to kids who can't buy it yet. Love it. Can't wait till all drugs are legal, right? After all - it's just a harmless self inflicted choice right? Ranking right up there with "other" choices people make that don't harm any one 'cept the decision maker. Hmmm... don't expect anything higher out of some...they can't give it.

Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater


Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013
Article comment by: adam adamson

and of teens who drink, how many get an ID carrying adult to buy them alcohol?

9 of 9?

and of those 11% who got their marijuana from an mmj card holder, what percentage would not have gotten marijuana at all if they did not know a cardholder? 0%? becasue they would have got it somewhere else its not like they were totally against marijuana until they met a cardholder.

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Curran

I must agree with most of the reader comments wondering why this article is even news. I don't use marijuana and drink very lightly. I'm glad I can't be prosecuted for eating too much.
Please try not to provide free publicity disguised as a news article for right wing politicians to express their political views. I imagine this was not your intention.
Thank you,
Chris Curran

Posted: Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Article comment by: Give Me A Break

Teens have always pushed the limits as to what they can get away with. Teens have been known to get people to buy them liquor. Teens have been known to steal Mom and Dads prescription medication. Teens have been known to steal cars for a joyrides.
Telling the public that teens score pot from medical card holders is just another form of propaganda meant to alarm the anti-marijuana segment of the population.
The attorney general and his cronies lost in court and now they are adopting Karl Rove like tactics and manipulation of the news to sway peoples thoughts on marijuana.
A lie is just as good as the truth if you get enough people to believe the lie. I think our leaders in Arizona have shown they cannot be trusted to respect and serve the will of the people that put them in office.

Posted: Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Article comment by: Gee, I guess the more deadly drug like alcohol has never been

purchased by adults and given to minors. Whew! I feel safer knowing teens are smoking pot rather than dieing from the deadly, addictive drug alcohol.

Posted: Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Article comment by: chronic pain

I am tired of Tom Horne and others listing chronic pain as though it is something easily cured with aspirin. Causes of chronic pain are many, Car wrecks, surgery,cancer to name a few. Cannibis has been used for chronic pain and nausea for over 5000 years. It is not suprising that these are the most commonly listed. Are some people faking these symptoms? I am sure there are some who are.Doctors who prescribe precription pain meds are fooled too.Does this mean we should stop treating all who are in pain?

Posted: Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Article comment by: Audrey Parker

Shoudn't someone be asking whether this "transfer" of marijuana to another, especially a minor, is being paid for? In other words, are these marijuana cardholders dealing drugs?The possibilities ae endless in this program. Boy oh boy! You have a marijuana card, a passport to drug dealing income. Dont even mentio the increased impaired drivers on the road. And now minors in the equation What a dumb and conscienceless law this is.

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