Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 Source: Acorn, The (Agoura Hills, CA) Page: Front Page Copyright: 2006 J.Bee NP Publishing, Ltd. Contact: http://www.theacorn.com Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/4227 Author: Stephanie Bertholdo Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Marijuana - Medicinal) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?232 (Chronic Pain) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?225 (Students - United States) MEDICAL MARIJUANA ABUSES REPORTED AMONG TEENS A decade has passed since Californians voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. At the time, one of the arguments against legalizing the drug was that the law might open the door to abuse, especially among teens. Indeed, many teenagers in the area have found that the marijuana grown and dispensed by medical groups can be easily obtained, and is perhaps of even higher quality than what can be purchased on the street. California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. The law, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, was intended to give seriously ill Californians the right to possess and use marijuana for a variety of chronic medical conditions. 'Know the Right Doctor' To safeguard against abuse, people who suffer from cancer, AIDS, chronic pain and other conditions must obtain a prescription from a licensed physician, the first step to possessing a medical marijuana identification card. Once a medical marijuana identification card is in hand, a citizen can drop in to any local medical marijuana dispensary throughout California and legally purchase up to eight ounces of marijuana or other cannabis products. These include ice cream, brownies and lollipops created for people who can't smoke but need the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, to ease pain. One Oak Park teen who wished to remain anonymous for this article said that at least 10 of his friends have fraudulently obtained medical marijuana identification cards. "It's really easy to get," said the 19-year-old. "You just have to know the right doctor." According to several experts interviewed by The Acorn, if a person cannot convince their own physician that the drug is necessary for a particular medical condition, the dispensaries will often recommend a doctor who is more likely to write a prescription. Other conditions that are considered treatable with marijuana, but are not as easy to confirm as a diagnosis of cancer or AIDS, include migraine headaches, severe nausea, anxiety and other mood disorders. The California Health and Safety Code allows marijuana to be prescribed for any condition that "substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." The process to obtain a medical marijuana identification card is fairly straighforward. Once a doctor's prescription is obtained, a form is filled out and after the prescription becomes verified a patient is legally eligible to purchase marijuana in limited quantities. "It's better pot, I guess, than a lot of the street stuff," said the Oak Park teen. Each dispensary devises guidelines on how much marijuana a patient can purchase. A spokesperson for Herbal Independent Pharmacy in Woodland Hills said that the store allows individuals to purchase only two ounces within a two-week period. "Someone could reasonably smoke an ounce in a week," the HIP employee said. For those who want to bypass such limitations, a regular supply of marijuana can be obtained by visiting different dispensaries in the Conejo and San Fernando valleys. Cannabis "clubs" do not check with other dispensaries, another HIP spokesperson said. The onus is on the patient, who by law may possess only eight ounces of marijuana at a time. But "they could hit 50 dispensaries in one day if they wanted to," the employee said. Some marijuana issued with 'little or no justification' Dep. Matt Dunn, a member of the Lost Hills Juvenile Intervention Team in Agoura Hills, said law enforcement officers often deal with teens in possession of medical marijuana. Dunn said he confiscates the marijuana and identification card since California's medical marijuana law is trumped by federal law. "I call the doctor to ascertain the validity of the prescription," Dunn said. "Many times (prescriptions and identification cards) are fraudulently obtained. "I don't disagree with medical marijuana, but I do believe there is a lot of fraud," Dunn said. Dunn cited as an example a young man caught with marijuana who was proud to flash his medical marijuana card. The man said he had obtained the card legally because he played college football and had hurt his back. "Physicians are risking their reputations and licensing by issuing medical marijuana with little or no justification," Dunn said. What Parents Can Do Randi Klein, the alternative education counselor with the Las Virgenes Unified School District, has seen a rise in medical marijuana usage over the past 18 months and believes that medical marijuana cards are being obtained by students who should not qualify. Klein said many of the clinics have doctors on staff who will write the prescriptions for such ailments as insomnia or anxiety. "It's a virtual supermarket," Klein said of the clinics. "They sell candy with THC, 'reefer cups' as opposed to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, laced lollypops and ice cream." Klein considers doctors who prescribe marijuana for minor ailments, especially for teens who fabricate complaints of back pain, insomnia or anxiety, to be negligent. "I do think that kids are starting (to use drugs) younger and younger," Klein said. She said parents must take a more proactive role in supervising their children, from monitoring computer usage to making sure their teens are where they say they are. Klein also advises parents to set boundaries, and get their teenagers involved in activities that encourage good choices. Myspace com, a popular website mostly used by teens, has caused an escalation in teen drinking and drug use, Klein said. There are thousands of web pages outlining the drunken escapades of students, and thousands of pictures of students who appear drugged or drunk, Klein said. "It looks cool to so many kids," Klein said. She recommends that parents ask to see their children's profiles on the site. "It's important to know what your kids are doing," Klein said.