Thursday, September 2, 2010

Arizona Needs Guidelines for Medical Marijuana Recommendations

Soon Arizona voters will have the chance to fix our broken medical marijuana law by approving the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and like the legislature; the Arizona Medical Board needs to get ahead of a few potential problems.

Everyone knows that California’s medical marijuana law is laughable at best. One of the problems is the Pot Doc’s who write recommendations for almost anything. But it’s not their fault, it’s the law.

In California doctors can write a medical marijuana recommendation for patients who suffer from specific list of conditions, but the California law also adds a catchall provision that lets doctors approve marijuana use for "any other illness for which marijuana provides relief."

Like the California law, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act lists specific conditions and treatments for which doctors can recommend medical marijuana, but there's an important difference.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act lists debilitating medical condition as one or more of the following,
(a) cancer, glaucoma, positive for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis c, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, crohn’s disease, agitation of alzheimer’s disease, or the treatment of these conditions.
(b) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or it’s treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

This is the important difference..
(c) Any other medical condition or it’s treatment added by the department pursuant to section 36-2801.01

This is a good start; it puts the responsibility to add other medical conditions on the Arizona Department of Health Services, but Arizona need to go farther.

Doctors need to know what the state expects from them when writing medical marijuana recommendations. We need guidelines like those the Arizona Medical Board enacted in 1997 for the treatment of chronic pain.

I don’t know anyone who suffers one of the debilitating medical conditions listed in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act who doesn’t see a doctor on a regular basis, or at least have a diagnosis from a doctor and medical history.

If Arizona voters approve medical marijuana in November, we need to take it seriously and treat it like medicine, because it is very serious for patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from chronic pain, nausea, and seizures.


  1. Everyone knows that California’s medical marijuana law is laughable at best.

    Actually I think there are plenty of sick Californians who would disagree with that statement. I'm not denying the system is often distorted and contains many questionable gray areas, but it's far from "laughable" to people who can seek relief of real suffering without fearing arrest any longer. It has also proven to be critically important to the general cannabis prohibition reform movement from a political standpoint.

    Generally, given the incredibly low potential for any sort of acute harm with cannabis, doctors should be given as much leeway as possible. I'd rather see recreational use illegitimately passed off as medical use than see a suffering person statutorily prevented from accessing something that could help him or her.

  2. I would love to see marijuana legal for adults, and I hope that day comes this November in California.

    But when voters in other states see medical marijuana, as you said, "illegitimately passed off as medical use", it make it so much harder for us in other states still trying to get medical marijuana for sick people our states.

    Until we legalize marijuana, please don't try to illegitimately pass off recreational use marijuana as medical use, the lives of too many sick people depend on marijuana being seen as medicine.

    As more people are educated about the medical use of marijuana, like so many other prescription drugs, hopefully soon it will become sold over the counter to adults.

  3. Until we legalize marijuana, please don't try to illegitimately pass off recreational use marijuana as medical use, the lives of too many sick people depend on marijuana being seen as medicine.

    Again though -- sick people in California are in pretty good shape as far as cannabis is concerned. And, like it or loathe it, the "laughable" California law has been instrumental in the expansion of medical access to other states.

    I see your points, and I agree that it's important to show respect for the ill and not to take advantage of their needs for personal gain. But personally I think charges against California's Prop 215 for propagating such problems are largely unwarranted. The simple fact is that virtually every American who can safely access cannabis today owes a debt of gratitude to the people who conceived, campaigned for, and implemented Prop 215 and SB 420 in California. I shudder to think where we'd be today without California's flawed, widely abused, vaguely defined, and glorious medical marijuana policy.

  4. "Everyone knows that California’s medical marijuana law is laughable at best. One of the problems is the Pot Doc’s who write recommendations for almost anything. But it’s not their fault, it’s the law"

    What kind of writing is this? You speak as if you care for the people who need medical attention, but then you chastise the people who made the oppertunity happen for you. It is unjust that this nation is so dependent on its false values and virtues.

  5. I'm of the opinion which Judge Gray's expressed (something like this) ~ "make marijuana legal, and all the concerns about medical marijuana's implementation become irrelevant." (Sorry if I didn't paraphrase you correctly Judge Gray.)

    But basically the problem I see is this. Legal marijuana for adults allows it to be used for the greatest number of remedies. Restricting marijuana for medical uses sets a very high bar.

    Anyone familiar with herbs and supplements will (or should) be able to tell you fairly quickly that the reason those items can't make specific claims about how they could help specific illnesses or discomforts is once they do, then they have to become approved by the FDA, which means A LOT of hurdles. So instead, those items must be sure to avoid mentioning specific illnesses, diseases, etc… and vaguely hint at historical uses or other marketing mumbo jumbo.

    Also, don't forget there are lots of us without insurance or doctors. I find it amazingly frustrating that I would have to cough up huge sums to see a doctor for permission to use a plant God put here. Imagine having to call on a priest, then make a donation to the church, all before you can go to bed with your wife; then to go confession afterwards and explain the whole thing as though it was a sin.

    Certainly if doctors are going to be able to prescribe it, and patients want relief from ______ and are expecting their doctors to know what they're talking about, then there should be some clear guidelines for them. I completely agree with you. But let's not kid ourselves, there are already many many people who have adopted marijuana use to help with x, y, z; they tried it to see if it worked, they cared about if it worked for them.

    So I see mmj as a double edged sword. Calling anything a medicine sets the bar very very high, and tends to put it in the hands of very few people who only allow access to it under remarkably restrictive conditions and after paying them lots of money. But we all know that mmj is not a "cruel hoax," it has been used for thousands of years for medicinal reasons; the real cruel hoax that is being perpetrated is by our own govt. and via the Crude Fear Mirage Foundations. Denying access to, or locking up, suffering people who benefit from its healing properties is sick, so I am not against focusing on helping them first, but I must go back to my opening quote from Judge Gray. All the complexities of making guidelines and regulations for cannabis as medicine (as well as keeping it far too expensive) are ameliorated by re-legalizing it for adults.

  6. Also, it's kind of a bummer not to see Parkinson's disease on the list. Besides wanting to help people with Parkinson's the other BIGGEST reason for this is that Parkinson's is such a visible disease.

    Parkinson's patients can't stop shaking, but with the right strain of cannabis it can (seen a few videos). I think this would go a long way to convincing many of the doubters.

    I'm not a doctor, but I've read the mom who gives her 8-year-old autistic son mmj. She's found out that some strains do nothing and some work to ease his symptoms.

    Even though I am not a doctor I know enough about the medical field to know they listen to anecdotes but do not prescribe based on them. But the fact is a patient or caregiver in a desperate situation is not particularly interested in waiting 10 years for a study to come out. They are gladly willing to run trial and error tests on their own, even on the anecdotal testimony from others they trust or are in the same situation.

    And to touch on what I wrote above, I imagine it is a whole lot easier, and FAR LESS expensive, to do this under a system of legalization for adults than restricted to legalization for those who've been able to eek out scripts from doctors.


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