Medical marijuana access subject to debate under proposed bill

Photo courtesy of Chantelle Patel
(Chantelle Patel/DD)

A bill proposed early this year that would refer Arizona’s recent medical marijuana law back to the ballot in November 2014 is under consideration by state legislators.

In November 2010 voters approved Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, which allows individuals with debilitating health conditions to legally possess, use and sell the drug under certain restrictions.

But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he submitted a new resolution to allow Arizona voters to reconsider the legalization of this drug.

“The voters were led to believe that medical marijuana would serve people with a diverse array of ailments, many of them sympathy a gendering like cancer or Chrohn’s disease,” Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh also shed light on new information presented by The Arizona Department of Health Services which shows that 90 percent of the 34,000 cardholders claim chronic pain, which he said could be easily faked and nearly impossible to prove.

Kavanagh said the “last straw” was the results of a survey done by The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission that showed that of children who use marijuana illegally, 11 percent are getting it from cardholders.

Sunny Singh, the owner of WeGrow, a company that certifies patients and supplies marijuana cultivators, believes that giving voters more time will only strengthen support for medical marijuana.

“The approval for medical marijuana over all, over time, has become more accepted nationwide, even here in Arizona,” Singh said. “The medical marijuana communities here are making a big effort to make sure it doesn’t change.”

Kavanagh argues that there is no mainstream medical authority, including the FDA, that approves medical marijuana for any medical conditions.

Singh said that marijuana being a controlled substance for so many years is the reason why there is no medical proof of its benefits, and it is up to the government to do that testing to prove or disprove its medicinal benefits.

“There’s the perception or stigma behind it that people just like to get high and listen to reggae music … but we have customers who come in, who we see are really sick patients that really use it as a medicine,” he said.

Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, unlike Kavanagh, is opposed to sponsoring a bill that would repeal The Medical Marijuana law.

“We as policy makers have seen a number of loopholes … so in implementing these measures we’ve seen where we can close these loopholes,” Yee said.

Yee sponsored a bill in 2011 that would ensure that if someone comes onto a job having used medical marijuana, that individual would not be placed into a “safety-sensitive” situation that would cause any harm to consumers.

Yee sponsored a second bill in 2012 that would ensure doctors who are certifying cardholders were properly checking patient history to make sure they were not taking conflicting drugs.

“That bill would ensure public safety and making sure doctors are checking into what the patients existing medications were,” she said.

Yee said in 2013 she would be sponsoring four more bills aimed at the labeling of edible marijuana products to ensure consumer safety, the seizure and disposal of medical marijuana by law enforcement and allowing universities to move forward with medical marijuana research on their campuses with federal government and university institutional board approvals.

Kavanagh said that there is no way to reform away the fact that there is no proof of marijuana’s medical benefits and until it meets the standards of mainstream medical authority and is approved, nobody should have medical marijuana.

“I just can’t see them giving people access and the right to cultivate, and the right to possess and then taking it away,” Singh said. “There would be way too much backlash from it.”

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