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1/26/2013 2:04:00 PM
Patients criticize Legislature's foot-dragging on medical marijuana

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services


PHOENIX -- Medical marijuana patients and dispensary owners on Thursday blasted a legislative proposal to force yet another reconsideration of whether voters really want to keep the drug legal in Arizona for patients.

Jim Dyer, a retired Tucson attorney, detailed how other medications for his multiple sclerosis left him unable to walk by the time they were effective at dealing with his muscle spasms. Dyer said he found two strains of marijuana that help, one that provides energy during the day and a second to help him sleep at night.

Greg Plunkett, a 46-year-old Navy veteran living in Sun City, told a similar story about how the drug helps him with seizures.

And Rebecca Perry of Peoria said marijuana, which she had to purchase legally before the 2010 voter-approved initiative, is "the only thing I've found to get me through the day.'

None of that swayed Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, from his determination that the issue should be placed back on the 2014 ballot. And he was not swayed by the comments of the patients.

"Are there some people who have legitimate medical conditions and pain?' he said.

"There sure are,' Kavanagh continued. "But to them I would say: No medical authority would say it's helping you. They all say it's harming you.'

And Kavanagh cited a ruling this week by a federal appellate court in Washington which upheld the decision by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to keep marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug -- one which has no legitimate medical uses and cannot be prescribed -- saying that the agency did nothing wrong in concluding there is no data from "adequate and well-controlled clinical trials' that shows otherwise.

Ryan Hurley, an attorney who represents dispensary owners, said that's only because the federal government won't provide the marijuana needed for such studies.

But the court never got to address that issue, with the judges pointing out that challengers never raised it when they sued in the first place.

Kavanagh also cited a report by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission which said close to one out of every eight high schoolers surveyed last year who said they regularly smoke marijuana said they got it from someone with a state-issued medical marijuana card. He said abuses like this may give voters a reason to reconsider their support for the program.

But Ken Sobel, owner of the Green Halo dispensary in Tucson, said Kavanagh is cherry picking his data. He pointed out the same study shows that the percentage of high schoolers who say they have used marijuana in the last 30 days actually declined between 2010 and 2012.

Voters first approved legalizing marijuana and other otherwise-illegal drugs for medical conditions in 1996. But that was overturned the following year by the Legislature.

In 1998 supporters got the issue back on the ballot and the measure was again ratified. But it never took effect because it required doctors to "prescribe' the drugs, something no physician was willing to do because it would put at risk their federal license to prescribe other drugs.

The 2010 measure, which was approved by which deals only with marijuana, gets around that by allowing doctors to "recommend' the drug. That recommendation entitles someone to get a card from the state letting them obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

Kavanagh said the measure, which passed by just 4,340 votes out of nearly 1.7 million ballots statewide, was sold to voters as helping people with "terrible ailments.' He said state health department figures show close to 90 percent of those who obtained cars got them for conditions causing severe and chronic pain, "hard to disprove, easy to fake.'

He also said just 14 doctors have issued half the recommendations.

"There are so many yellow flags that say that this program is full of abuse ... that the voters should be allowed to reconsider.'

Dyer, however, called Kavanagh's plan "insulting' following three separate approvals of the law.

"There's no need for a repeal or anything else,' he said. Dyer said if there is a problem with unauthorized people getting marijuana it is likely coming from unlicensed and unregulated "compassion clubs' which sprang up before the state started licensing dispensaries late last year.

What voters might do remains up in the air.

Hurley cited a telephone survey of 600 Arizonans done at the direction of the national dispensary industry which showed 44 percent of those responding said they strongly support the state medical marijuana law, with another 15 percent saying they support it but do not feel strongly.

But Kavanagh, citing the narrow margin of victory in 2010, said he believes voters, having seen how the system works, will have second thoughts.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

Actually, the article is about medical marijuana patients protesting moves to delay opening legal sources and Rep. Kavanagh's efforts to put medical marijuana back on the ballot because...some students said they got marijuana from people with medical marijuana cards. I simply expressed the opinion that he wouldn't have to worry about teenagers if marijuana's evils hadn't been exaggerated beyond belief.


Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by: Fare Play

@ Mary Heartman,
This is not a story about children in school.This is about someone high on methadone and marijuana that killed someone while driving. This person broke so many laws that he will spend a long time in prison thinking about what he has done.

As far as what you have said about the pot and ignoring the methadone, leads me to believe you have the same tunnel vision as Audrey when it comes to you making your point, whether its relevent to the story you are responding to or not.

It will always be illegal for school age children to smoke pot and I hope to drink alcohol. It is also illegal for them to buy and sell or ingest their parents medicine cabinet.

Would you still be argueing if the story had been about a death caused by a driver under the influence of alcohol and methadone? If you are looking for something to blame, blame the impaired driver, they will always be out there and there is no way laws are ever going to stop it.

There are so many things to get high on out there that I would think crack, heroin, cocaine, and alcohol would be a bit higher on your radar than pot.
P.S. Increased appetite for someone that is sick is a good thing.


Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ Fare Play

Maybe, but might one ask what this man was thinking popping methadone and puffing pot simultaneously without being accused of special pleading?

It seems to me that if the mountains of "killer weed" propaganda were cleared away, people would pay more attention to the actual problems marijuana presents. It impairs short term memory, increases appetite, suppresses inhibitions, and dulls response to both internal and external stimuli. But it's easier to explain to kids why Vicodin and alcohol don't mix than it is to convince them marijuana will make it harder to retain what they're supposed to be learning in school, lose weight, pursue goals, realize they have an ear infection, or drive a car.

Maybe Rep. John Kavanagh's time and resources would be better spent promoting an education campaign to counteract all the disinformation that obscures these downsides.


Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: Fare Play

@ Audrey Parker

I love the way you read a story and then decide it is representative of everything you hate about marijuana. This was a person high on medical synthetic heroin. It was the methadone that was affecting this persons behavior more than anything else.
Ingest and understand what you read, dont just try to focus the story on whatever suits your agenda.


Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Jane

Sounds like Kavanaugh wants his political career to go the way Russell Pierce's did, down the toilet! Mr. Kavanaugh should remember that the voters aren't very kind to politicians who attempt to usurp democracy!!

Perhaps after letting his cup of boiling hot tea cool down a bit, the GOP poison inside him will abate and he'll decide that democracy is OK.


Posted: Saturday, January 26, 2013
Article comment by: Yes Audrey

We can expect that there will be irresponsible people. And we can certainly expect prescription meds like methadone to affect ones ability to operate a motor vehicle. Med Pot is no different than MANY narcotic medications in that it is known to affect ones ability to operate motor vehicles and or heavy machinery. Your argument is based on the fear mongering that McCarthyism politics and the DARE program have instilled in you. And frankly, in 2013, it doesn't hold water.

Posted: Saturday, January 26, 2013
Article comment by: Arizonans aren't very bright, are they?

Audrey Parker . . .

It wasn't the marijuana, it was the METHODONE.


Methadone

Prescription drug

Treats moderate to severe pain. Also used together with medical supervision and counseling to treat narcotic drug addiction or to help control withdrawal symptoms in patients being treated for narcotic drug addiction. This medicine is a narcotic pain reliever.

Legal status: Schedule II controlled substance

May treat: Opioid-Related Disorders, Intractable Pain

Drug classes: Opioid, Analgesic


You do know what an Opioid is right?

HEROINE


Posted: Saturday, January 26, 2013
Article comment by: Audrey Parker

And as this reconsideration is pending we have news of a horrific accident at Robert Road and 89A. And the cause? A man who admitted to the police that he had recently take marijuana and methadone. He careered up the road at highway speed with no braking according to the report, slammed into the back of a car carrying two women and a baby, and killed the woman. This is what we can expect?More impaired drivers who took these drugs "recently." They are whiners and moaners and using whatever comes into their head to demand "medical use." Then they sell their cards to teenagers. What a nice society we have wrought for ourselves.



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