Pubdate: Mon, 27 Sep 2010
Source: Verde Independent (AZ)
Copyright: 2010 Western News & Info, Inc
Author: Jon Hutchinson


COTTONWOOD - A crowd of mainly Democratic Party members Thursday
parsed the words of two advocates, one who supports and one who
disparages Proposition 203, the Medical Marijuana initiative.

Ivan Anderson works for the Verde Valley Fire District and for three
years has been an educator for MATForce, the non-profit organization
to discourage various types of drug abuse.

Andrew Myers is one of the five people who drafted Proposition 203,
the "medical marijuana" initiative before voters in November. MATForce
has published a number of talking points that became the structure of
the debate. Anderson told the group he would not debate the medical
merits of marijuana.

"The Marijuana Policy Project is a Washington D.C.-based organization
whose mission is to legalize marijuana," according to Anderson. The
medical marijuana initiative is to "get its foot in the door" in
Arizona. Anderson said, "If you talk to people in these 14 states that
have already approved medical marijuana, they will tell you about the
baggage these laws bring. California and Colorado are suffering from
wide-spread abuse."

Myers responded by saying, "Proposition 203 provides a safe and legal
access to marijuana. In Arizona, marijuana is only available to
patients from their criminal market. Thousands of patients who are now
using it for chronic pain now have to go to criminal market."

"The California Medical Marijuana system is broken," according to
Myers. "It was the first measure passed in 1996, before it was known
how to regulate the market. It is now just an avenue for anyone to get
marijuana. Los Angeles has reached a peak of 1,000 dispensaries, more
than Starbucks or Subway outlets. Anyone in California can get a
recommendation without qualifying. We have learned a lot about how to
regulate since then."

"Ivan is right that among the missions of the Marijuana Policy Project
in Washington is to approve medical marijuana and to legalize
marijuana nationwide. But, nothing in this initiative would pave the
way to marijuana legalization. The Arizona initiative was written by
Arizonans. The Marijuana Policy Project in Washington sponsored our
signature drive, but it is a locally-controlled campaign. We did a
poll in 2009 and found that Arizona voters would approve the use of
medical marijuana by 65 percent, but only 25 percent said they would
support legalization of marijuana."

Anderson protested that minors also can be card-holders under the
Arizona initiative. "That is an avenue for abuse," he said. "There is
a recent report that a 2-year old in Montana is also a card holder.
And the initiative says that a card-holder may not be cited for
endangering children."

"There is good reason for that," Myers said. "A 15-year-old leukemia
patient who is going through chemotherapy is having the same nausea
issues as an adult cancer patient. Currently, we provide narcotic
painkillers to children that are far more dangerous than marijuana.
The initiative requires two separate physicians to provide a
recommendation plus a parent's approval. When I was 14, I had to have
my knee reconstructed after an accident, a very long painful process.
I was prescribed strong narcotic painkillers. We do this all the time.
There is no reason to deny medicine to patients who need it. Medical
marijuana has less toxicity than any other painkiller. You can
overdose on water, but you cannot on marijuana."

Other key points of the debate

Anderson: "According to the initiative, the allowable amount of 
marijuana is 2.5 ounces in 14 days. That is a lot of marijuana, even for 
a recreational user. And those who do not live near a dispensary may 
grow up to 12 plants. Twelve plants could supply a lot more marijuana 
than five ounces a month. A grower may also provide for five other 
card-holders and grow up to 60 plants."

Myers: "The initiative would allow for one dispensary for every 10 
pharmacies. But in a rural area like Arizona, some patients may live a 
distance from one. Not every patient will be able to grow his own 
supply. A caregiver may grow for a that patient."

"Medical marijuana is especially effective in cases of nausea, muscle
tremors and neuropathy, where there is pain from nerve damage. Most
patients currently take a high amount of opiates to suppress the pain.
A patient who uses the vaporization for medical marijuana will need a
greater volume to be effective."

"But, the initiative provides stiff penalties for 'diversion' outside
the medical marijuana system of regulated card-holders. If you sold to
a non-card holder, that would be a Class 2 felony, the same as
manslaughter. There needs to be a sufficient stick."

Anderson: "No school or landlord may refuse to enroll or lease, based on 
the status as a cardholder."

Myers: "There should be no discrimination for card-holders for use of a 
medication in the same way that schools or landlords would not 
discriminate if your were prescribed oxycodone. We want rights that are 
the same as any other medication that has psychoactive ingredients."

"The same is true with employees rights. But, that is not to say that
if you were caught impaired on the job, you could not be fired. It
also does not allow use of marijuana on school grounds. In that case,
law enforcement would become involved. The initiative says a person
may not abuse marijuana on campus. If they fail a field sobriety test,
they can still be incarcerated under the law."

Myers: "Most cancer patients do not smoke their marijuana. They ingest 
it or use a vaporization process, which releases the beneficial 
ingredients below a temperature in which it burns and creates 
carcinogens and other toxins. In Canada and Europe, they have approved a 
Binaca-type mouth spray for medical marijuana.

"Marinol is a synthetic form of Tetrahydracanabinol (THC), the
substance in marijuana that makes a person high. It is taken in pill
form, but not recommended by oncologists. It takes an hour to take
effect, before you know if the dosing is correct. It contains only one
of the 13 beneficial agents of marijuana and not the best one. It also
costs $400 a bottle."

Myers: "The initiative is already very long at 35 pages now. It could 
have been up to 700 pages. But, we wanted to allow the Department of 
Health the leeway to identify patient examinations and enforcement and 
other specifics. The DHS will have to create an enforcement arm. But the 
Joint Legislative Budget Committee says the initiative will be 
self-supporting with revenue of $6 million to 9 million annually, 
assuming the legislature repeals the prohibition against taxing marijuana."
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MAP posted-by: Matt