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Medical Marijuana Initiative Town Hall At Show Low Library May 5

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SHOW LOW - Debe Campbell, Coordinator for the Navajo County Coalition Against Drug Abuse, wants people to show up at Show Low City Council chambers on the second floor of the library located at 180 N. Ninth Street on Wednesday and Thursday, 7 p.m. to discuss possible consequences of approving a bill in November which would allow medical marijuana use in Arizona.

Campbell says she is personally against SB 1222, but wants people on both sides of the issue to be there Wednesday so both can have a chance to look at the pros and cons of the heated topic. She says she has sent multiple invitations and a certified letter to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project asking their attendance, but as of press time had not received a reply. Campbell says Sheriff K.C Clark from the Navajo County Sheriff's Office, County Attorney, Brad Carlyon, Doug Heber with the Partnership for a Drug Free America Arizona Affiliate and Dr. Jennifer Foran with Community Counseling Centers will however be there. She is still waiting for confirmation from Christine Rodencal with Summit Healthcare.

Among Campbell's objections to SB 1222 are of the initiative will fail to bring in any revenue to the state because suppliers will likely be non-profits and exempt from taxation. She says she thinks it will also result in Arizona's roadways having people under the influence of the drug driving without the fear of getting a DUI because she is under the impression it would be legal for licensed medical marijuana users to drive under its influence.

Pinetop-Lakeside Police Sergeant David Sargent says, however, licensed users of medical marijuana would be subject to the same laws governing impairment via prescription drug use while driving. Sargent says under current state law if a motorist is under the influence of a legally prescribed medication and a law enforcement officer determines they are impaired, they are issued a citation (DUI), the same would hold true if medical marijuana use is passed in Arizona.

As for the issue of taxation, the Legislature apparently feels they dealt with it when the state Senate Thursday passed 17-12 a bill to subject for-profit dispensaries in Arizona to a 5.6 percent sales tax. The initiative now goes to the House for consideration. Senate Bill 1222 would also tack on a $20-per-ounce luxury tax for non-profits.

California brings in approximately $100 million annually in tax receipts from medical marijuana.
According to 2008 Census figures, California, with 36.6 million residents, has six times the population of Arizona. Doug Hebert of Drug Free America, and a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent tells The Independent he estimates 60 oz. per user per year, and says there are 220,000 registered users in California.

If this figure is correct, 36,667 Arizona users (1/6 of 220,000) would, at $20 luxury tax per ounce, pay $44 million in taxes.
Campaign Manager for the medical marijuana initiative, Andrew Myers, said what people are being asked to vote on in Arizona would be different than other states in that there could be no more than 120 dispensaries for medical marijuana set up in the entire state which would be required to operate as non-profit entities. This would mean the only revenue coming to the state, assuming only non-profits sold medical marijuana in Arizona, might be the $20-per-ounce luxury tax from registered non-profit entities. Campbell fears such a situation would likely lead to an illegal black market for medical marijuana in the state and she says that, to her, is unacceptable.

Campbell tells The Independent she is also worried about the possibility of people having illnesses and/or conditions added which would qualify for medical marijuana use. SB 1222 does have provisions to allow additions. The bill says a public petition may be made to add a medical condition to the list of qualified debilitating illnesses which would then be subject to public hearings and ultimately approval or denial by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) or its successor agency.

Campbell says this could have the potential to get out of hand resulting in people being able to qualify for medical marijuana cards far too easily and without merit.

Opponents of medical marijuana often point to dronabinol, the synthetic version of one of marijuana's active ingredients. Dronabinol replaces its natural counterpart found in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, and is available in pill form. Campbell notes there is also the availability of Marinol, also known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which also has THC in it. She says she believes the existence of the substitutes for the real thing are much safer for the user and society at large.

Campbell says she worries about juveniles having access to medical marijuana. Under the bill, ADHS could not issue a medical marijuana card to anyone under the age of 18 unless their legal guardian responsible for making health decisions or parents have been advised by a qualifying physician of the potential benefits and risks of its use. Campbell isn't the only one worried about that either. Former Maricopa County Attorney and current hopeful for the Republican nomination for Arizona Attorney General, Andrew Thomas, says he is also worried it could translate to a gateway drug; that is one of the reasons he stands with Campbell in his opposition to the legislation.

Arizonan voters approved medical marijuana usage in 1996, passing it with approximately 65 percent of the vote; it is still on Arizona's law books, but the law isn't much more than symbolic due to an error in its wording.
The language of the initiative allowed patients to use marijuana only if they had a prescription from a doctor.
Physicians, though, are barred from writing prescriptions for the drug because of a federal classification identifying marijuana as a harmful drug without medical value.

If the current initiative passes it would give doctors the authority to issue patients a "certification" thus circumventing threats by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to revoke the prescription-writing privileges of any doctor who prescribes marijuana. President Barack Obama has also told federal agents not to pursue prosecution of physicians who issue prescriptions or certification. Shortly after taking office Obama said "I think our federal agents have better things to do, like catching criminals and preventing terrorism.

"The way I want to approach the issue of medical marijuana is to base it on science, and if there is sound science that supports the use of medical marijuana and if it is controlled and prescribed in a way that other medicine is prescribed, then it's something that I think we should consider."
The American Medical Association (AMA) revised its stance on the subject in 2001, but fell short of saying it has medicinal value.

The association feels the issue calls for further adequate and well-controlled studies of the drug and related cannabinoids in patients who have serious conditions for which preclinical, anecdotal, or controlled evidence suggests possible efficacy and the application of such results to the understanding and treatment of disease. According to Campbell, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Glaucoma Society, American Academy of Opthamology and American Cancer Society have all rejected the use of marijuana as medicinal.

"Although it is clear that cannabinoids have potential both for the management of MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity, as well as for neuroprotection, the Society cannot at this time recommend that medical marijuana be made widely available to people with MS for symptom management," posted the National Multiple Sclerosis Web site on March 17, 2009.

Henry Jampel, MD, MHS with the American Glaucoma Society says, "One of the commonly discussed alternatives for the treatment of glaucoma by lowering IOP (inter-ocular pressure) is the smoking of marijuana.
It has been definitively demonstrated, and widely appreciated, that smoking marijuana lowers IOP in both normal individuals and in those with glaucoma, and therefore might be a treatment for glaucoma.
Less often appreciated is marijuana's short duration of action (only 3 to 4 h), meaning that to lower the IOP around the clock it would have to be smoked every 3 hours."

Arizona Sen. Jorge Garcia, D-Tucson, who proposed SB 1222, notes that 14 other states already have similar laws. Those states are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Arizona would be number 15 if voters pass the initiative in November.
"A number of folks who I've spoken to in my work say that marijuana helps them to relieve some stressors, to deal with the nausea associated with medications," Garcia said. "But the state should get its cut."

Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the initiative, not only supports taxing medical marijuana as is provided for in the bill, but he believes it might give voters another reason to vote in favor of it.
"Passing this makes it clear that enacting a medical-marijuana law is not only the right thing to do for patients but it will also help pay for social services," he said.

Here again The Navajo County Drug Project takes exception with that idea. According to a pamphlet they have on Talking Points surrounding SB 1222, the bill is "designed to prey on voters' sympathies for the terminally ill and those with debilitating illnesses" and is written "as a vehicle to virtually decriminalize" the drug in Arizona by creating barriers for law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, state licensing entities and employers.

The bill can be viewed in its entirety on the Legislature's Web site at Arizona State Legislature, or on the Navajo County Coalition Against Drug Abuse Web site at Navajo County Drug Project. Live question call in line: 928-532-4160. Anyone with questions regarding substance abuse and/or mental health concerns can contact Community Counseling Centers at (928) 524-6126 in Holbrook, (928) 289-4658 in Winslow and (928) 537-2951 in Show Low.


News Hawk: Warbux 420 MAGAZINE
Source: WMICentral.com
Author: Mike Leiby
Contact: WMICentral - News - Top Stories
Copyright: 2010 The Independant
Website: WMICentral - Medical Marijuana Initiative Town Hall at Show Low library May 5