Medical Marijuana

1. Overview

As the use of medical marijuana grows in the State of Arizona, many questions remain unanswered about marijuana.  There are many urban myths and misconceptions about how the drug affects its users.  The material in this page it meant to educate the public on medical marijuana.

 Questions and Answers on Medical Marijuana

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) was adopted by the Arizona voters.

This act allows medical marijuana cardholders to buy and consume 2.5 ounces, (approximately a soda can’s worth) every two weeks.

As of September of 2013 over 37,598 people have signed up for medical marijuana. (Current statistics may be obtained from the AZ Dept. of Health.) Twenty-four doctors have given 75% of all the recommendations.

Over 90% of the cardholders now live within 25 miles of a marijuana dispensary and are no longer able to cultivate their own when their card is renewed.

Of the 37,598 whom have a card, 27,316 (or approximately 72%) received a card for “Chronic Pain”. “Chronic Pain” is any pain occurring more than once for any reason. Another 7,004 (or approximately another 18%) received a card for “Chronic Pain” plus some other ailment (two or more). The allowed addition of “Chronic Pain” was the reason given for most law enforcement opposition to the original Act.

70% of the cardholders are men 
Around half of all cardholders are under the age of 40
36 of the cardholders are minors

Less than 10% of the current list have received their cards for medical doctor certified (i.e.-not naturopath, naturalist, etc.) “diseases” such as Cancer, Glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, HIV, Nausea, Seizures, etc. For example, out of the 37,598 “patients” as of this date:  213 were cancer patients; 271 were seizure sufferers; 339 were glaucoma patients; and 360 suffered from nausea. 511 also suffer from the non-disease “muscle spasms” which is a different category from “chronic pain.”

Having a medical marijuana card does NOT protect you from getting a DUI charge.

The use of Hashish (a potent form of cannabis) is not permitted under the AMMA.

2. Marijuana Fast Facts

POTENCY  - Marijuana potency is on the rise. In the 1980’s THC concentrations were less than 4%. In 2009 the average concentration was 10%. Hospital and rehabilitation center admission rates have soared 188% for minors abusing marijuana in that time period. Admissions for alcohol abuse over that same time period declined by 64%. Between 2004 and 2011 alone, marijuana related hospital emergency room visits increased by 52%.

RISKS – THC, one of over 400 chemicals in marijuana, over-activates the brains endocannabinoid system, causing a “high” and interfering with the neural communication network. Adolescent use causes a decrease in the nerves myelin sheathing, resulting in a decrease in IQ of 7-8 points (possibly taking youth from high normal to lower than average IQ). Use before the age of 15 means a threefold likelihood of later mental illness such as schizophrenia appearing.

Marijuana smoke is 70% worse than regular cigarette smoke. In Arizona, it is illegal for minors to possess or smoke tobacco cigarettes, but they can smoke marijuana with a medical marijuana card. In 2012, for the first time, marijuana use starting exceeding normal cigarette use. Teens wrongly believe marijuana is far less risky than tobacco and prescription drugs.

Research shows users driving vehicles have slower reaction times, impaired judgment and difficulty responding to signals and sounds. The skills needed to drive safely are controlled by the same parts of the brain affected by THC. Having a medical marijuana card is not a defense to a DUI charge. This is the answer to the question of whether anyone has ever died simply by using marijuana. Many fatal car accidents have been tied to marijuana use.

ADDICTION – Despite all popular belief, medical research has proven conclusively that marijuana is addictive. 1 out of every 11 overall users will become addicted to it. If the person started using as a minor, this number raises to 1 in 6.

3. Marijuana Urban Myths

  1. Marijuana isn’t addictive! – False. 1 out of every 11 people who use marijuana will become addicted, just like other drug addicts such as alcohol and meth. If the person started using as a minor, that number rises to 1 in 6.
  2. Our prisons are filled with low level pot users! – False. In Arizona that number is under 1%. Arizona Law requires first offenders to get drug counseling, not jail. Nationwide this number is under 2%.
  3. Marijuana is all right because it is natural! – False. Poison Ivy is natural. You don’t want to smoke or ingest that.
  4. At least there are no withdrawal symptoms! – False. The latest scientific studies show habitual users will suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they stop using.
  5. We can just legalize it and tax it, just like alcohol! It will be a government windfall! – False. We already tax alcohol and cigarettes. The amounts recovered from them cover less than one tenth of the actual costs to society. The same is true for marijuana. As mentioned above, marijuana is addictive. Doesn’t it seem morally wrong for your government to create new addicts just in order to make money?
  6. Marijuana is safe because they call it medicine!- False. Marijuana is marijuana. Marijuana smoke is 70% worse for you than regular cigarette smoke in both carcinogens and other harmful chemicals.
  7. Marijuana is safe because it is medicine!- False. Studies show that when marijuana is termed “medicine” teen use doubles, as shown from those states currently with “medical” marijuana laws. Over 11% of our teenagers currently obtain their marijuana from someone who has a “medical” marijuana card. “Medical” Marijuana is not medicine for the following reasons:

A) Real medicine must undergo rigorous testing for efficacy and side effects before it is released to the public in the United States. Marijuana has not been found to be better than existing legal drugs (except in a very few instances, which can already be prescribed, see above).

B) You really can’t get a “prescription” for marijuana. Possession of marijuana is illegal under Federal law. Medical marijuana cardholders only get “certifications” in order to get “medical” marijuana cards, and the majority of those tens of thousands of certifications for the state of Arizona are being done by less than 25 “doctors” (which includes homeopaths and naturopaths.) Many doctors oppose marijuana’s use. For example, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act specifically lists glaucoma as a valid medical reason, yet the Glaucoma Treatment Foundation itself states: “(T)he high dose of marijuana necessary to produce a clinically relevant effect in IOP in the short term requires constant inhalation, as much as every three hours. The number of significant side effects generated by long-term oral use of marijuana or long-term inhalation of marijuana smoke makes marijuana a poor choice in the treatment of glaucoma…”

C) How many doctors’ prescriptions let you choose the strength of your dose? “Medical” marijuana users go to a dispensary and choose their favorite kind, which vary in the active THC levels. 

D) How many prescriptions let you decide if you are going to take your medicine all at once on the first day, or a lot the first day and then a little for another two weeks,  or just skip doses whenever you want? “Medical” marijuana users can do all of the above plus more.

E) Real medicine should limit side effects. The use of medical marijuana by adolescents lowers their IQ by 7-8 points and affects the myelin sheathing levels on the nerves.

F) The use of “medical” marijuana before age 15 means a threefold likelihood of later mental illness such as schizophrenia. Thus their use of marijuana as “medicine” actually increases their chances of harmful effects (such as mental illness).

G) There are no warning labels on medical marijuana.

4. Marijuana versus Medical Marijuana

There is no difference. Calling marijuana “medicine” does not change any of the research or health effects.

Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug under Federal law, making it illegal to possess or use without Federal approval due to its high potential for abuse. Nevertheless, medical research has determined that marijuana may be effective for a few medical conditions and which the federal government has made available for doctors to prescribe.

Marinol and Cesamet are a synthetic pill form of THC that relieves nausea and vomiting: usually used to reverse weight loss in AIDS and cancer patients. It is already currently available by prescription in the United States.

Sativex is a nasal spray used to treat certain pain associated with cancer and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. Sativex has been approved by Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries for use with a prescription. It is currently undergoing medical trials in the United States.

Medical research is currently ongoing to test its effectiveness in regards to stopping or slowing certain types of seizures.

For most pain management, so far medical research indicates marijuana is usually less effective than current non-prescription and prescription medicines.

Regarding CBD oil: CBD oil contains less than .03% THC (the psychoactive component) and is not considered marijuana.

5. Sources

2012 American Society of Addiction Medicine
National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA, 2011, 2010
2000—2010 National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services (Table2.1-Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) –http:////
Arizona Youth Survey State Report:
APAAC Report –Fischer, Daryl Ph.D. –Prisoners in Arizona: A profile of the Inmate Population March 4, 2010 (updated 2011), (ADAM II 2012)
DuPont, Robert M.D. – Director of the National institute on Drug Abuse: Why we should not legalize marijuana, April 2010
National Institute on Drug Abuse and
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 1998 –The Economic Cost of alcohol and drug abuse in the United States 1992, Bethesda, MD
Harwood, H. (2000) Updating estimates and the economic costs of alcohol abuse in the United States: estimates, Update Methods and Data. Report prepared for the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.
Appendix C - Drug Enforcement Administration, denial of petition to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana, July 8, 2011, 76 FR 131, pages 40551-40589 (Docket No. DEA – 352N)
Americans For Safe Access v. D.E.A. – U.S. Ct. of Appeals- Columbia Dist. Jan. 22, 2013 11-1265, 2013 WL 216052
D.E.A. –Position on Marijuana - published January 2011
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Result of the 2011 National Survey on Drug use and health: Summary of National Findings NSDUH Series H-44, HHS Publication NO. (SMA) 12-4713. Rockville, MD
The Facts on Marijuana , Marlowe, D., J.D., Ph.D. Chief of Science, Law and policy, Dec. 2010.
Anthony, J.S.; Warner, L.A. & Kessler, R.C. (1994) Comparative Epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic Findings from the National Comorbidity Survey.
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2, 244-268, Brooks, J.S. Pahl, K. (2008) –
M. Galanter & H.D. Kleber (Eds.) Textbook of substance abuse treatment  pp. 29-44 Washington D.C. – American Psychiatric Press
Kandel, D., Chen, K. et all (1997) Prevalence and demographic correlates of symptoms last year dependence on alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and cocaine in the U.S. population
Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 44, 11-29: Munsey, C. (2010) Medicine or Menace?
Monitor on Psychology, 41,50-55; Wagner, F.A and Anthony, J.S. (2002) Psychologists research can inform growing debate over legalizing marijuana
From first drug use to drug dependence: Developmental periods of risk for dependence on marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol Neuropsychopharmacology, 26, 479-488
Arizona Dept. of Health Services website (Sept. 2013)
(Apologies if any other sources left off) 


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