Medical marijuana clubs under fire from AG
Hey Tom Horne: Take your hand out of the pot. Literally. -UA
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.
Burns: Misclassification behind medical-marijuana fiasco
A doctor that gets it.-UA
Elaine Burns - Jun. 13, AZCENTRAL.com
Confusion over the conflicts, both imagined and real, between Arizona's voter-approved medical-marijuana law and federal law has been running rampant in recent weeks.
On one hand, the federal government has warned growers and sellers of the potential for prosecution while stating a hands-off policy toward those who have been certified for use.
On the other hand, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne have replied to U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke's warnings with yet another lawsuit, incurring more needless legal fees for Arizona taxpayers and seriously delaying full implementation of the new law.
Patients who can benefit from the medication are caught in the middle.
They are eager for the relief they know they can get from medical marijuana but do not understand how all the political maneuvering is in their best interest.
Fortunately for patients, the medical-marijuana community has been operating without dispensaries since April and can continue to do so even though the state's lawsuit has put a hold on any dispensaries opening in the foreseeable future.
Doctors have been guiding patients through the certification process, and the state is still accepting applications for certification and issuing cards.
Voters must place pressure for legalization where it belongs on Washington, D.C.
Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug and prohibits its cultivation, sale or use.
Schedule I drugs are considered to be substances with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
But marijuana's medical uses are extensive and include efficacy for such debilitating conditions as glaucoma, cancer, AIDS and chronic pain.
The two largest physician groups in the country - the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians - have called on the federal government to review marijuana's Schedule I classification.
It is time for marijuana to be reclassified.
The real problem is at the federal level, where marijuana has been misclassified as a Schedule I drug.
Those who support medical marijuana must make their voices heard in Washington.
They need to ask that marijuana be removed from a classification that includes drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine - drugs that are not only highly addictive but that also have no medical use.
As long as marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, the medical-marijuana community will continue to have problems.
People must make themselves heard.
Individuals can begin by educating themselves via Americans for Safe Access (www.AmericansForSafeAccess .org), a national organization spearheading a call to action on the issue of reclassifying marijuana.
But most importantly, voters should contact their congressional representatives to make their position known and bring pressure to reclassify marijuana.
Dr. Elaine M. Burns is an Arizona-licensed and board-certified naturopathic medical doctor. She is medical director at the Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center and a founding member and president of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Physicians Association.
Want to see what 3,589 pounds of marijuana looks like?
Another victory in the war on drugs. -UA
by Hugh Holub on May. 09, 2011
Tucson Sector Border Patrol Disrupts Smugglers’ Attempts in the West Desert Drugs, Weapons and Ammunition Seized
TUCSON, Ariz. – In three separate incidents over the weekend, Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents interdicted three firearms, 14 rounds of ammunition, 3.3 pounds of heroin, 225 pounds of methamphetamine and a total of 4,265 pounds of marijuana.
On Friday, May 6, a canine team assigned to the Ajo Station assisted the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) with a vehicle search. The vehicle was transported to State Route 85 Checkpoint for further inspection after the canine alerted to possible hidden narcotics. At the checkpoint, agents using Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology detected anomalies within the conveyance. Further inspection led agents and officers to discover 197 packages containing more than 225 pounds of methamphetamine along with two packages of heroin, weighing 3.3 pounds. The driver, vehicle and narcotics were taken into custody by DPS for processing.
In a separate incident on Friday, Ajo Station agents using Mobile Surveillance System (MSS) technology detected a group of smugglers backpacking possible marijuana through the West Desert. All Terrain Unit (ATU) agents, along with CBP air assets, responded to interdict. Agents apprehended 10 smugglers with 92 bundles of marijuana, weighing approximately 3,589 pounds. The smugglers and marijuana were transported to the Ajo Station for processing.
On Sunday morning, May 8, Casa Grande Station agents apprehended five illegal aliens suspected of drug smuggling near Stanfield, Arizona. With the assistance of a canine team, agents conducted an extensive search in the area of the apprehension and discovered 63 bundles of marijuana and a backpack that had been buried in the sand. The backpack contained a rifle, two pistols and 14 rounds of ammunition. The marijuana, weighing approximately 676 pounds, the five subjects and weapons were seized and transported to the Casa Grande Station for processing.
The above incidents demonstrate the Tucson Sector Border Patrol’s ability to quickly adapt and shift resources to mitigate smuggling activity and counter threats posed by transnational criminal organizations to deny and disrupt their efforts.
Since launching the Southwest Border Initiative in March 2009, the Department of Homeland Security has made significant investments towards establishing a secure and safe border environment and improving the quality of life throughout the communities in the state of Arizona.
The Border Patrol welcomes assistance from the community. Report suspicious activity by calling toll free 1-877-872-7435. All calls will be answered and will remain anonymous.
Medicinal Marijuana - No easy high
By Melissa St. Aude
Staff Writer trivalleycentral.com
Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011 10:38 AM MST
-- A local doctor who advocates it says don’t smoke it
-- Sun Life Family Health Center won’t prescribe it
-- The state won’t help you find a doctor who will prescribe it
-- If you do get a permit for it, you won’t be able to find it for months
When Dr. Donald Hill, a Western Pinal County-based oncologist, first heard of Proposition 203 — the 2010 ballot question that eventually legalized the use of medical marijuana in Arizona — he was opposed to the measure, despite having seen positive benefits the drug has on cancer patients.
“I thought it was a backdoor effort to legalize recreational use of the drug, which I am opposed to,” Hill said. “I thought Arizona would become like California or Colorado, where people can get medical marijuana for anything from a hangnail to a hangover.”
When he learned more about the measure and that the state would place strict controls over the drug, he became a proponent of the cause and now hopes to open one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Casa Grande.
“Having advanced cancer is no trip to Disneyland,” he said. “Cancer patients who use medical marijuana are not using it for euphoria. They’re not using it as a recreational drug.”
On Thursday, the Arizona Department of Health Services began accepting certification applications from patients seeking to use medical marijuana. Patients with allowable conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or other debilitating medical conditions may qualify for state approval to use medical marijuana.
But not all in the medical profession are onboard with writing certifications for their patients, even if those patients have an approved medical condition.
Sun Life just says no
Because marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug by the federal government, doctors at Sun Life Family Health Centers – which has locations in Maricopa, Casa Grande, and four other Pinal cities – will be among the area physicians who will not write medical marijuana certifications for their patients, said Dr. Robert Babyar, medical director of Sun Life.
“I support our organization’s position that marijuana is labeled by the federal government as an illegal drug and there is a potential for inappropriate requests for and use of the drug,” Babyar said.
As a federally recognized health center, Sun Life is prohibited by federal law to prescribe medical marijuana — or any illegal drug — to patients.
Babyar said that so far, no Sun Life patients have asked about obtaining medical marijuana certification, although some patients might qualify.
“The last category for qualification is rather vague and we have a fair number of patients who may qualify under the chronic or debilitating disease category with pain, nausea or muscle spasm,” he said. “For those patients who do ask about a certificate for medical marijuana, our providers will counsel on alternative options or refer patients to outside providers.”
The anti-nausea medication Marinol, which uses an artificial THC component as the active ingredient, is a legal drug that Sun Life providers could write a prescription for in some cases, Babyar said.
Who can prescribe pot?
Doctors who write certifications for medical marijuana will not need a special license from the state, but they will need to be licensed with their respective medical boards, said Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
“The law allows for four types of physicians to write certifications for patients to use medical marijuana — allopathic (medical doctor), osteopathic, homeopathic or naturopathic,” Humble said.
Qualifying patients whose doctors will not or cannot write certifications for medical marijuana will find no help from state officials in finding a willing doctor.
“The state is not in the position to recommend physicians to patients,” Humble said. “It will be up to the patients to find doctors who write certifications for medical use of marijuana.”
Hill said that he respects the opinions of doctors who will not or cannot write certifications for medical marijuana.
“We’re charting new territory here,” he said. “Medical marijuana is still frowned upon by the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] and a lot of people would argue that unless a drug is approved by the FDA, there is no sense in getting involved. If I wasn’t in the field of oncology, I might agree.”
He said he too had doubts about the drug’s benefits when in 2006 he signed on to a four-year study testing the effects of the marijuana on cancer patients.
“I thought it would be all smoke and mirrors, but I saw the benefit medical marijuana had on patients,” he said.
Medical marijuana is effective in easing pain, nausea and anxiety and Hill believes that about one-third of cancer patients use the drug illicitly to ease the effects of cancer treatment.
Because cannabinoid receptors, like opioid receptors, are found naturally in the human body and are activated when the plant is consumed, Hill believes that humans evolved along with the cannabis plant.
“In all likelihood, humans have been using cannabis for thousands of years,” he said.
Up in smoke
But he does not advocate allowing patients to smoke the drug.
“Smoking is an absurd drug delivery system,” Hill said. “One medical marijuana joint can have as much tar as an entire pack of cigarettes. There are serious risks with smoking it.”
Instead, he advocates dispensing the medication in edible form, where medical marijuana is infused into foods like baked goods or butter.
State oversight of physicians, dispensaries and cultivators will help prevent abuse, he said.
“Everything will be monitored by the state, from the ground to harvest, with inventory checks to make sure that medical marijuana doesn’t end up in some teen’s lunch box,” Hill said.
While the state has begun accepting certification applications from patients, those who receive approval to use medical marijuana will wait several months until the ADHS approves dispensaries and cultivators.
State health officials will begin accepting applications from potential dispensaries and cultivators June 1. Applications will be accepted throughout the month and will take about six weeks to evaluate. Dispensary certificates will be awarded in August and the first facilities should open soon after.
“Some potential dispensary owners are already working with local jurisdictions for zoning,” said Laura Oxley, communications director for the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pinal pot dispensaries
Pinal County is likely to become home to at least four dispensaries — one in each of the state’s Community Health Analysis Areas, which in Pinal County are Florence, Casa Grande, Coolidge and Superior/Kearny.
Approved patients who do not live within 25 miles of a dispensary will be permitted to grow up to 12 plants of their own marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility.
Some think that for that reason, locating dispensaries near population centers will better control the drug and prevent abuse.
“It is better to have dispensaries with oversight and control than having people growing their own,” said C. Alton Bruce, director of Growth Management for the city of Coolidge.
Like many other communities, Coolidge has amended zoning rules to better regulate where dispensaries and cultivators are able to operate.
In both Casa Grande and Coolidge, medical marijuana facilities — whether they are dispensaries, cultivators or infusers — will be required to obtain a conditional use permit and are allowed only in certain, approved commercial zones.
Bruce said that while he has fielded several inquiries from potential medical marijuana organizations, only one application for a conditional use permit for a dispensary has been submitted to Coolidge officials. He was expecting one cultivator to also submit an application for a conditional use permit.
The Casa Grande Planning and Development Department is reviewing four applications for medical marijuana dispensaries, according to Paul Tice, department director.
Each application proposes locating near Casa Grande Regional Medical Center within the city’s Medical Marijuana Overlay Zone.
“Although we are reviewing four applications, only one will be approved for actual use, as ADHS will only allocate one dispensary license to the Community Health Analysis Area, which includes Casa Grande,” Tice said. “Additionally, each of the four locations are in close proximity to one another and will not meet the 500-foot spacing between medical marijuana uses.”
No permit applications have been submitted for cultivation or infusion facilities within Casa Grande, he said.
In February, Pinal County supervisors approved amendments to planning and zoning rules that require dispensaries, off-site cultivation locations and food-infusion operations to obtain a special use permit to operate.
By last week, no applications for special use permits had been received by county officials, said Heather Murphy, communications director for Pinal County. But three concept reviews — a first step in applying for a permit — had been received for two dispensaries and one cultivation facility in unspecified parts of Pinal County, Murphy said.
WOW, reading the comments and tone from this article really gives me a different feeling toward the Arizona MMJ program. It is no surprise Arizonans dragged their heals for so long on closing the loophole, and are now deadlocked over id pictures! The ignorance is saddening. Cannabis should be an option for patients, NOT THE LAST RESORT. Fortunately through education and patient testimonials reporters such as this one are soon to represent the minority in the community. -UA
Arizona health director: First-day stats for medical marijuana promising
By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services East Valley Tribune 4/14/11
It's a 60-year-old Scottsdale resident living with Crohn's Disease.
That, coupled with other statistics from the first day Arizonans could get certified to buy, possess and use marijuana, pleases state Health Director Will Humble. He said if the patterns hold, it will prove that Arizona has successfully created a medical marijuana program as opposed to a recreational one.
The state's online application process for certifying people to buy, possess and use marijuana went live at 8 a.m. Thursday. Humble said the first applicant -- his name is not a public record -- had his paperwork reviewed and approved within a half hour, paving the way for the state to send him a card certifying him as a ``qualifying patient.''
That allows him -- and anyone else who gets a card -- to purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
For the moment, though, none of the patients or the people who are certified as their caregivers will be buying anything, at least not legally. That's because the state is still going through the process of licensing the 125 dispensaries that will be allowed under Arizona law to sell the drug.
That triggers a provision in the 2010 voter-approved law which says anyone who lives at least 25 miles from a dispensary is entitled to grow their own medication. And with no clinics now and none anticipated for months, that means everyone.
In the first nine hours after the web site went ``live,'' Humble said 110 people submitted applications. But only about two thirds of those ended up with health officials putting a card in an envelope.
The rest? Humble said one of the biggest problems involved the electronic photographs which are required so they can become part of the ID card.
``If it wasn't exactly 2 inches by 2 inches, the computer was rejecting it,'' he said. Humble said the technical support team worked that out during the day.
But he said there also were some problems with the pictures that some would-be marijuana users submitted. Humble said they simply found a photo of themselves on their computer and decided that would suffice.
It did not.
``It was a picture of them on their Harley next to a tree in the shade and it wasn't a clear picture,'' he said.
Humble said he actually expected more than 65 people to submit applications in the first hours, as the law allowed marijuana patients to go to their doctors to get the certification ahead of time.
``I thought we'd be into the couple of hundred range,'' he said. But Humble said that with the application process available online on a 24/7 basis, there may be people figuring they'd wait until the evening.
``A lot of folks know they don't have to apply during business hours,'' he said.
Humble also said the first-day figures don't provide him any clue of how many people will qualify to buy, possess and use marijuana.
The law approved by voters spells out that only those diagnosed by a doctor with certain medical conditions can get the required state certification. These include diseases like glaucoma and AIDS as well as chronic or debilitating conditions that lead to severe and chronic pain.
On top of that, the Health Department imposed various restrictions which Humble said are designed to keep physicians from setting up shop as ``certification mills'' to provide cards for those who want the drug strictly for recreational purposes.
Humble said he anticipates the number of certified users a year from now could be as few as 20,000 -- or as many as 100,000.
He said, though, the first-day statistics suggest to him that the system is working as he had hoped, with marijuana being recommended for medical purposes only.
Humble acknowledged, though, that more than half of the medical conditions reported fell into that chronic pain category, a classification he conceded could be abused. But he said that, absent more, there is no reason to believe that the doctors who made the certifications were acting improperly.
In fact, he pointed out that nearly half of all the applications came from people at least 40 years old, with 22 percent from those 51 and older.
He said states where the program has become largely recreational have the dominant group as men in their 20s and early 30s, ``not because men in those age ranges can't have medical conditions ... but by in large, men in their 20s and 30s are pretty darn healthy.''
It did turn out, at least for the first day, four out of five Arizona applicants were male.
READ THE ORIGINAL COMMENTS TO THIS ARTICLE HERE: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/local/health/article_29fbd494-670f-11e0-ae10-001cc4c002e0.html
Pinal turns down tribal pot request
Posted: Mar 2, 2011 8:46 AM
courtesy of www.kvoa.com
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (AP) - Pinal County supervisors are rejecting a call by Gila River Indian Community officials not to locate pot dispensaries within a mile of their borders because the tribe doesn't recognize medical marijuana.
Tribal Gov. William R. Rhodes said in a letter the county's cooperation would support his community's stance against medical marijuana and help reduce safety hazards and criminal behavior that could arise from dispensaries located within a mile of the community's boundary.
The Arizona Republic reports Pinal supervisors last week approved a medical-marijuana ordinance without accommodating the tribe's Feb. 14 request. The ordinance dictates zoning rules for dispensaries and related facilities.
County Supervisor David Snider says supervisors could consider the tribe's request on a case-by-case basis when dispensaries seek to operate on unincorporated county land.