Gov. Jan Lifts Block on MMJ Dispensaries
Posted by J.M. Smith tusconweekley.com
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has seen the light and will halt the ludicrous legal fight to block medical marijuana dispensaries across the state.
In a statement issued Friday, the governor told God and everyone that she has ordered the processing of dispensary applications in Arizona, but not immediately.
"I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a pending legal challenge to the departmentâ€Ÿs medical marijuana rules is resolved," she said.
Brewer continues to complain in the announcement about the supposed prosecution threat to state employees, again asking the U.S. Attorney's Office for a clarification of the feds' position on workers who process applications and regulate the dispensaries. But in the end, she gave up.
"I believe the best course of action now is to complete the implementation of Proposition 203 in accordance with the law," she said.
Unless, of course, she decides not to. The statement ends with this threat:
"Know this: I won't hesitate to halt State involvement in the AMMA if I receive indication that state employees face prosecution due to their duties in administering this law."
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Arizona Medical-Marijuana Suit Dismissed by Federal Judge
Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. judge dismissed a lawsuit asking the court to decide whether Arizona could carry out its medical-marijuana law without subjecting state workers to federal charges.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer claimed the voter-approved measure contradicted federal law and put state employees, who are charged with approving medical-marijuana dispensaries, at risk of prosecution. Her administration refused to approve dispensary applications pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
In her ruling yesterday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix said the state failed to establish a “genuine threat of imminent prosecution.”
Bolton gave the state 30 days to amend and refile the complaint. Brewer hasn’t decided whether she will renew the case, her spokesman, Matthew Benson, said. Benson called the ruling a “tremendous disappointment.”
“What the federal court has essentially said is that it won’t hear the state’s lawsuit until we have an employee who is either prosecuted or notified that they face imminent prosecution for their part in facilitating Proposition 203,” Benson said in a telephone interview, referring to the ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana. “That is an untenable position for any state employee.”
Charles Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, said in an e-mail that the agency wouldn’t comment on the ruling.
Arizona and 15 other states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes in violation of federal law. Brewer filed her lawsuit against the federal government and would-be dispensary operators after U.S. attorneys in other states said state employees wouldn’t be immune from federal prosecution. The suit asked the court to decide whether federal law nullifies the state statute or if the Arizona measure protects state workers from federal prosecution.
Arizona’s law, approved in November 2010 by a margin of fewer than 5,000 votes, created a system of dispensaries to be regulated by the state health department and capped at 125 statewide. Patients are barred from growing their own marijuana if they live within 25 miles of a dispensary.
Grow Your Own
Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne, who both publicly opposed the measure, filed the lawsuit five days before the state was set to begin accepting applications from would-be dispensary operators in May. The move opened the door for patients and caregivers to grow their own marijuana. So far, the state has approved 18,000 medical marijuana patients, of which 15,000 are allowed to grow their own pot, according to the Health Services Department website.
Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association said voters wanted a regulated dispensary system and never intended to have thousands of patients growing their own pot. His organization of would-be clinic operators will consider suing in state court if Brewer’s administration doesn’t move forward with the dispensaries, he said.
“We would hope that our state leaders will now recognize it is time to stop wasting taxpayer dollars in an effort to thwart the will of the voters and move ahead with full implementation of the initiative,” Yuhas said in a telephone interview.
The case is State of Arizona v. U.S., 11-cv-1072, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix)
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Felons getting their hands on medical marijuana
Would you rather they smoke some cannabis or take some oxys? -UA
PHOENIX (KPHO) -
You can get a prescription for medical marijuana in Arizona. The problem is so can felons, even those who've served time because of the drug.
From drug traffickers to murders who killed for drugs, there are numerous felons on probation for drug-related crimes but if they have a medical condition, they could be given marijuana legally thanks to the medical marijuana law.
"I think one of the problems with medical marijuana is that we are all sympathetic with people who are sick and who it might do good, but in many states that have adopted medical marijuana it simply becomes a situation where anybody can get marijuana because some doctors are not ethical about it," said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
In New Mexico, Daniel Barrego was convicted of a home invasion where getting drugs and money was the goal; however, during the crime a 21-year-old man was killed. While on probation, Barrego was given a medical marijuana card and the judge in his case let him have access to the drug.
"If the doctor prescribed the medication and feels that it is medically necessary, I do not feel that I can interfere with that doctor-patient relationship," the judge said.
It is a decision that does not sit well with Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
"In general, I do not think that convicted criminals should be getting medical marijuana," Horne said.
Right now, there are restrictions that would not allow a felon to work at a dispensary or be a caregiver to someone with a medical marijuana card, but a patient with a prescription can access the drug regardless of their criminal history.
Horne says there have been attempts to make the marijuana law in Arizona more restrictive. The Department of Health Services has worked with the attorney general's office to pass rules that make it more restrictive and try to prevent felons from getting marijuana, but Horne says "we will not entirely eliminate those problems."
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YCSO seeks grandfather for growing marijuana
This drug war ruins lives, while doing nothing to curb drug use. -UA
SPRING VALLEY, Ariz. -- The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office is looking for a man they say was growing marijuana in his home where he lives with his son and three grandchildren.
Larry Everett Brown Sr., 62, is wanted for cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and three counts of child endangerment.
The sheriff's office was contacted after a representative from Children’s Protective Services found marijuana growing inside Brown's Spring Valley home while checking on the welfare of his three grandchildren, all under the age of 9.
A sheriff's deputy arrived to assist the CPS employee and found more than 100 marijuana plants growing in the basement, according to YCSO spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn. Marijuana was also found in the bedroom of Larry Brown Jr., the children's father.
D'Evelyn said Brown Jr. was present and expressed no concern regarding his children's access to the marijuana. He explained that his dad was growing marijuana for a Phoenix resident and said his dad had a medical marijuana card from California.
Detectives were able to reach Brown Sr. by cell phone and they said that he admitted growing the marijuana plants. He was hoping to provide product for Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries but since the state's medical marijuana program is on hold, he was in the process of selling the plants in the Phoenix area.
Brown Jr. was arrested for three counts of child endangerment, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked at the Camp Verde Detention Center. CPS assumed custody of his children.
Brown Sr. has not been located and detectives have obtained a warrant for his arrest.
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Medical marijuana probe flags 8 Arizona physicians
Slow down docs....plenty of food on the table.......-UA
PHOENIX (AP) — State health officials have filed complaints against eight physicians who have recommended nearly half of the 10,000 Arizonans certified to use medical marijuana.
They say the physicians have failed to check patients' prescription-drug histories, as required.
State rules regulating the voter-approved medical-marijuana law require people to obtain a written recommendation from a licensed physician.
The doctor must perform a physical exam, review a year's worth of medical records, discuss the risks and benefits of medical marijuana, and review a state database that tracks prescription-drug use.
The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/pM1Ln4) reports that physicians can face a variety of consequences, from a letter of reprimand to suspension of their license, if their regulatory boards find they falsified medical records or are otherwise guilty of unprofessional conduct.
In one case, a naturopathic physician issued recommendations to about 1,000 people but checked the state Board of Pharmacy's controlled-substances database just 56 times, said Will Humble, director of the state Department of Health Services.
Because she indicated that she had checked the database on all the patients, Humble wonders what else she was lying about.
"It's obvious that these physicians are not acting on the up and up," Humble said. "To me, it's an indicator of, 'What else aren't you doing?' "
A review of the patient's drug-prescription history can help physicians determine whether medical marijuana is the best option or whether the patient is just looking to get high. The database tracks the log-in for every patient as well as searches for patients who aren't in the system.
In an effort to prevent doctors from encouraging recreational-marijuana use, Humble asked his staff to pull the names of doctors who had written more than 200 recommendations since the law took effect in mid-April. Ten came up.
When patient records were compared with the state pharmacy database, it showed that eight of those 10 physicians — three allopathic doctors and five naturopaths — failed to review drug histories on many of their patients.
Three doctors had never logged on, although they had checked the box on hundreds of medical-marijuana applications saying they had reviewed the patient's drug history.
The eight physicians account for nearly half of the 10,000 doctor recommendations in Arizona. The number recommended by each doctor ranged from slightly more than 200 to about 1,300.
Humble has no authority over Arizona physicians, but he reported the doctors to their regulatory boards this week. State law prohibits him from releasing their names, but they will become public if the boards agree to investigate.
Lisa Wynn, executive director of the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners, said a record-keeping violation would be relatively simple to review. A clinical investigation involving patient care, however, would involve hiring an expert in medical-marijuana use to evaluate whether physicians were acting appropriately.
If the board decides to investigate, a review committee will determine what discipline, if any, to recommend. The board can take that recommendation or issue its own, including dismissal of the complaint.
Proposition 203, approved by voters in November, legalized medical-marijuana use for people with certain debilitating conditions and allowed them to designate someone as a "caregiver" to grow or otherwise obtain marijuana for them.
About 80 percent of those issued state ID cards to use medical marijuana also are authorized to grow it.
The state was to begin licensing dispensaries in June, but a federal lawsuit filed by Gov. Jan Brewer put that process on hold, sparking a new round of legal action. Because there are not yet any licensed dispensaries, caregivers and patients are allowed to grow their own pot, up to 12 plants per person.
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50 in Yuma County apply for state medical marijuana
Power in numbers. -UA
August 14, 2011 3:23 PM BY DARREN DARONCO - SUN STAFF WRITER yumasun.com
Since the Arizona Department of Health Services began accepting applications for medicinal marijuana on April 14, more than 8,700 residents, including 50 in Yuma County, have applied to receive the cards authorizing them to legally possess and grow marijuana.
To receive the cards, patients must first obtain a written certificate from a licensed Arizona doctor confirming they have one or more of the qualifying conditions in the program such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, etc.
“All doctors that fall into four categories are able to certify for (medical marijuana),” said Laura Oxley, ADHS director of communications. “Allopaths, which are your normal MDs, homeopaths, naturopaths and osteopaths can provide a physician's rights certification to their patients they believe will benefit from it.”
Once they have their physician's certificate, patients must submit a medicinal marijuana application to ADHS, sign a statement promising they will not allow unauthorized individuals to use the drug, and pay a $150 application fee or $75 if the patient is enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps).
ADHS then reviews each application and renders a decision on its validity. Of the 8,738 applications received by ADHS, 8,670 of them have been approved, with only seven being rejected.
“The state does not get between the patient and their doctor,” said Oxley. “If they have a completed application they will receive a card. The complications come when they don't send in everything that they need to.”
After receiving their card, patients may possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana, or if they don't live within 25 miles of a dispensary, they may grow up to 12 cannabis plants in an enclosed, locked area on their property.
Currently, there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in Yuma County. It's unlikely there will be any time soon since ADHS stopped accepting dispensary applications pending a lawsuit filed by the attorney general on May 27 seeking a declaratory judgement on the legality of the law.
The case is pending in U.S. District Court of Arizona.
As of July 28, ADHS has received 6,912 requests to grow marijuana.
Numbers on Medicinal Marijuana in Arizona
Patients Totals Percentage of Total
Applications Received: 8,738
Applications Approved:8,670 99.2%
In Review Status:17
Requesting to Grow:6,912 79.1%
Age of Applicants
Under 18:5 0.06%
Over 51:3,432 39.3%
Medical Conditions Reported
Cancer 440 5.1%
Hepatitis C 584 6.9%
Cachexia 186 2.1%
Seizures 225 2.6%
Glaucoma 188 2.2%
Sclerosis 7 0.08%
Chronic Pain 7,430 85%
Muscle Spasms 1,405 16.1%
HIV/AIDS 164 1.9%
Crohn's Disease 151 1.7%
Nausea 1,132 13%
It is possible to report more than one condition.
Information provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
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Medical marijuana clubs under fire from AG
Hey Tom Horne: Take your hand out of the pot. Literally. -UA
Arizona's Attorney General has launched another legal battle over medical marijuana.
Tom Horne intends to shut down groups he believes have been illegally providing medical marijuana to patients with cancer and other diseases.
To that end Horne today filed suit, seeking to stop so-called "Cannibis Clubs" from giving marijuana to patients for a "membership fee."
"It is legal if you're a card holder to give marijuana to another card holder without compensation but it's not legal if there are fees involved. With the five clubs there are fees involved," said Attorney General Tom Horne. "Rather than having them arrested right away, I'm taking a softer approach. We're going to court to ask for a judgment of the court saying that they can't do this and if the court agrees with us and they continue doing it than they would be subject to arrest."
"Mr. Horne says there's nothing in the law that says we can do this I gotta go back to Mr. Horne tell him there's nothing in the law that says we can not," said medical marijuana advocate Allan Sobol. "The 2811 club does not distribute marijuana. We don't sell it here, we don't give it away here. We just allow qualified patients to come in here and exchange the marijuana amongst themselves, which I believe is in full compliance with state law."
Arizona's recently passed medical marijuana law is in disarray after Horne sued the federal government in May to find out whether state regulators could face prosecution.
That action essentially put the medical marijuana law on hold, although the state still is handing out medical marijuana cards to patients with qualifying diseases.
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Legal Marijuana in Arizona, but Not for the Sellers
By MARC LACEY July 22, 2011 nytimes.com
We elect these people to make a decision....then they do NOTHING.....-UA
PHOENIX — Marijuana is known to cause red eyes, gales of laughter and the munchies. In Arizona, add another side effect: utter confusion.
Voters narrowly approved a ballot initiative last November allowing medical marijuana in the state, but the result has been just the opposite of an orderly system of dispensing cannabis to the truly sick. Rather, police raids, surreptitious money transfers and unofficial pot clubs have followed passage of the new law, creating a chaotic situation not far removed from the black-market system that has always existed.
“There’s confusion,” said Ross Taylor, who owns CannaPatient, a newly formed company that helps patients get the medical certification required to receive state-issued medical marijuana cards. “There are a lot of unsure people, and not just because of what happened to me.”
The police raided Mr. Taylor’s home in June, one of several instances in which the authorities in the state have showed signs of resisting carrying out the new law, which took effect at the start of the year.
Gov. Jan Brewer — who campaigned against the law, then signed it with reluctance — said in May that the state, which has issued more than 7,500 cards to medical marijuana patients, would delay issuing licenses to marijuana dispensaries, as the law requires. Instead, she filed suit in federal court seeking a ruling on whether the state’s medical marijuana law conflicted with federal prohibitions on marijuana. So the patients have their cards permitting them to buy marijuana in Arizona, but no official place to do so.
Arizona is not just another state when it comes to marijuana. More Mexican-grown marijuana enters this state than any other, according to federal government data. On June 8, the authorities recovered more than 1,200 pounds from an S.U.V. that led them on a 20-mile chase through dirt roads near the border.
The police operation that took place the next day in Gilbert, a community outside Phoenix, netted a considerably smaller haul: about two ounces. In that case, the police executed a search warrant on Mr. Taylor’s house after getting a tip from the cable man. The officers, Mr. Taylor said, did not appear interested in his medical marijuana card, which permits him to grow up to a dozen marijuana plants in his home or obtain up to 2.5 ounces from a caregiver or a dispensary.
The police said they were pursuing those taking advantage of the new marijuana law.
The law does not permit the sale of marijuana outside of nonprofit dispensaries. But because the state has yet to approve any such outlets to sell marijuana, other ways of getting the drug are being tried.
Last month, the police raided the offices of a group in Tempe that was growing marijuana and selling it to cardholders. Garry Ferguson, founder of the organization, the Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group, told reporters that he understood the law to allow the sale of marijuana from one cardholder to another.
Unofficial cannabis clubs, not mentioned in the law, are also emerging. They purport to offer free marijuana to cardholders, albeit for a membership fee. For now, they are unregulated.
“In lieu of a regulated industry, we’re now creating an environment in which patients are growing their own with limited oversight, and these private clubs of questionable legality are popping up,” said Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, which led the medical marijuana campaign.
Ms. Brewer, a Republican, recently lamented “the dreadful situation” the state now finds itself in with marijuana legal for some.
Marijuana users consider the uncertainty dreadful as well, with some fearful that applying for cards might lead to police scrutiny. “I have friends who are afraid to get cards,” said Brad Scalf, 55, a disabled veteran. “I figured that when I’m smoking out on the back porch and the neighbors complain, I don’t have to worry. It’s like a get out of jail free card.”
The state’s legal case has been assigned to the same federal judge who found parts of Arizona’s immigration law to be unconstitutional. In that dispute, Arizona argued against the idea that the state should be hamstrung by federal immigration law. In this instance, the state seems to be seeking a ruling that federal law ought to prevail.
“The state has been beating the drum on states’ rights, but all of a sudden it has taken a 180-degree turn,” said Ken Frakes, a lawyer for the Rose Law Group, which represents a number of marijuana dispensary applicants.
Ms. Brewer said the decision to go to court was made to protect state employees from prosecution after Dennis K. Burke, the United States attorney for Arizona, sent a letter to state officials warning that the federal government still considered marijuana an illegal drug and would go after those who ran large marijuana production operations. Mr. Burke has subsequently said he had no intention of prosecuting state employees.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey held up carrying out his state’s medical marijuana law, one of 17 across the country, over similar concerns, but he announced this week that he would allow the program to go ahead.
In Arizona, some of the cannabis clubs are operating surreptitiously to avoid the notice of law enforcement. But not the 2811 Club, named for the provision of the law allowing state-approved marijuana patients to share marijuana among themselves.
Allan Sobol, the club’s marketing manager, has invited reporters in and offered instruction on the ins and outs of the new law to a group of Phoenix police officers. Everyone who enters must have a state-issued card, and no smoking is allowed on the premises, to prevent people from driving under the influence.
The dimly lit club offers classes and has computers and books available to research the many plant varieties, and comfortable chairs to enable patients to chat among themselves. It is the marijuana counter, though, that brings people in.
Club members, who pay a $25 application fee, also must pay $75 every time they walk through the door. Once inside, they are entitled to about 3 grams of marijuana, which is grown by other cardholders and donated to the club. Those growers, according to the law, can be compensated only for the cost of their supplies. On a recent afternoon, there were a number of varieties available, including Master Kush, Blue Dream and Granddaddy Purple.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you come in,” said Mr. Sobol, who has emerged as a spokesman for the embattled industry, but says he tried marijuana for the first time last week when he ate a salad made with marijuana dressing. “We want people to come in with dignity and get this medicine that is now legal.”
Mr. Sobol said he is convinced that the club, which is planning to expand throughout the Phoenix area, is on solid legal ground. But the club does not comply with the strict regulatory requirements for dispensaries, which has prompted state officials to order an inquiry. Mr. Sobol said that given the uncertainty surrounding the program, he would be foolhardy not to look over his shoulder. “We have to be concerned,” he said. “I have lawyers on call. They may arrest me, but if that day comes and they come barging through the front door, I’m convinced they’ll never convict me.”
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For medical marijuana, some doses delectable
Advocates see a niche for pot in edible forms
Food is more socially acceptable than smoking? -UA
by Karen Fernau - May. 30, 2011
The Arizona Republic
If Ganja Gourmet's plans to expand its edible-marijuana business to Phoenix come through, medical-pot users can expect it to be more of a cafe than a pharmacy.
Its Denver location is stocked with tamales, pot pot pies and mousse cakes, designed to cater to those who would rather eat than smoke their medicine.
"It's safer than smoking and more socially acceptable," said owner Steve Horwitz, who also believes there are health advantages to eating medical marijuana vs. smoking it.
Horwitz hopes to open a branch in the Valley by late 2011, though it's unclear when the first marijuana dispensary will open.
Challenges abound to the implementation of Arizona's new medical-marijuana law.
On Friday, the director of the state's health department temporarily halted plans to begin accepting applications to run dispensaries this week pending a federal court ruling on the new state law.
In other states with medical-marijuana laws, edible marijuana products are a burgeoning industry, ramped up by a foodie revolution.
Patients shouldn't look for 1960s-era brownies with the consistency of grass clippings and a bitter aftertaste. Modern-day edibles, instead of simply mixing weed into batter, are prepared with pot-infused oils or butter, known as cannabutter.
Edible dispensaries sell pot-infused candy, coffee, marinara sauce and hummus, along with cookbooks and kitchen gadgets.
Horwitz opened Ganja in 2009 as a sit-down restaurant where customers noshed on pot cheesecake and passed joints around the dinner table. Four months after opening, Denver passed a law prohibiting public consumption of marijuana, forcing Ganja to morph into a takeout eatery.
Eating vs. smoking marijuana is a personal preference, but each has its pros and cons that extend beyond the social benefits.
Edible highs offer stronger, longer relief to those who turn to pot to ease the nausea of chemotherapy, agitation of Alzheimer's and excruciating back pain.
"When you eat marijuana, the effects last longer. . . . If you smoke it, you have a spike in the effect that goes away quickly," said Chris Conrad, author of the book "Hemp for Health." The San Francisco Bay-area author has also been appointed as a medical-cannabis expert by state and federal courts in California.
If eaten in the right dose, marijuana-infused foods help patients avoid Grateful Dead-strength stupors that make ordinary tasks difficult. Unlike the fast-hitting high of smoking, edibles take about 40 minutes to take hold and last from six to eight hours.
Conrad said eating marijuana is not always the best option.
"When you smoke it, it goes directly into your bloodstream, versus eating it and going through the digestive tract," he said. "Everybody reacts differently depending on their eating cycle."
For example, if a person eats a full meal and then eats marijuana, it may take an hour or more to feel the effect, not a good thing if they're using medicinal marijuana to sleep.
If baking is a science, infusing foods with pot ranks as a superscience. Measure wrong, and instead of simply ending up with a rubbery pie crust or rock-hard frosting, dispensary bakers could face criminal charges.
State law allows patients with a medical-marijuana certificate to have up to 2.5 ounces a month.
Officials will be on the lookout for patients nibbling on pizza and cupcakes past the legal limit, said Carol Vack of the Arizona Department of Health Services. A statewide registry will track dosages.
"Every ounce will be measured and accounted for, whether it's in marijuana to smoke or cookies to eat for dessert," said Allan Sobol, spokesman for Arizona Dispensary University in Phoenix, a one-stop school serving the medical-marijuana industry with classes on growing to cooking.
For chefs like Herb Seidel of California, cookbook author and lecturer on the medical-marijuana conference circuit, the challenge of edible cuisine is creating foods that taste as good as they medicate.
"I use what I learned as a restaurant chef, with what I learned smoking pot to help me cope with the aches and pains of standing for hours in the kitchen, to create foods the home cook will really, really like," said the former restaurant chef.
His repertoire includes dishes such as oysters Italiano, grilled shrimp with tequila salsa, portobello-mushroom pizza and fresh-peach cobbler.
Marijuana, unlike basil and tarragon, can be a tricky herb. More specifically, the medicinal properties of the herb disappear if cooked too hot and too long.
"You need the right temperature, the right flavors and the right dose to take the edge off pain, but not enough to knock you out for 18 hours," said Seidel, who bills himself as Cannabis Chef and sells a four-pack video marijuana-cooking tutorial on his cookwithherb.com website.
Despite culinary advances, smoking bests eating as the medical-delivery system of choice. Experts credit the "make love not war" generation of pot smokers, saying those who smoked pot in their youth for fun are likely to smoke as adults for medicine.
"Edibles are a niche," said Judy Spillman, manager of Arizona Passionate Alternatives, a Tempe clinic that plans to specialize in providing medical-marijuana prescriptions.
"But it's a niche that is only going to grow because eating marijuana is a healthy, efficient, odorless and less stigmatized way to medicate."
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