Arizona Marijuana Update

By Richard Farrell 01/10/2014

Arizona sure paints a confusing picture when it comes to the medical marijuana situation. It’s legal – in fact, marijuana sales for the last year alone topped $40 Million if estimates are true. However, few doctors are onboard so far and this is concerning the State Health Department gravely. Quirkily enough, while you may roll your own, you may not grow it in the garden.

I decided to head down south to Phoenix and bottom out on what’s happening in Grand Canyon State. My first interview was with State Medical Director Will Humble, and I can assure you he is hardly unassuming at the best of times. In fact, I found him refreshingly open when he revealed the following stats concerning marijuana dispensaries in Arizona:

  • Voters agreed in 2010 that medical doctors might prescribe up to 2½ ounces of marijuana per two-week period.


  • Just 472 doctors made 36,346 weed recommendations in the past twelve months.


  • Over 27,000 of these prescriptions were by naturopaths, who comprise just 7% of all Arizona medicos.

“It may be that all of the 36,346 recommendations issued during that one-year period are justified,” Humble commented. “However it would be better if these patients actually worked with their regular primary care physicians who are familiar with the person, and can offer on-going treatment.” His main concern is the low uptake by family doctors, which could be driving patients to prescription mills who do not know their medical history.

I called Mason Tvert next. He is spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, and clearly does not believe that there is any need for a commercial weed review. “It is not rare for physicians to specialize in specific treatments,” he explained. “Given the many benefits of medical marijuana and the growing demand for it, it comes as little surprise that doctors are opting to specialize in it.”

Meanwhile the battle for legal dispensaries is still playing out in courts. The other day Judge Catherine Cooper denied two men their rights to bypass their local marijuana dispensary and grow their own. Her reasoning is that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act denies this opportunity within twenty-five miles of a state-controlled marihuana dispenser, whether or not they wish to experiment with rare weed strains. All very confusing.

At least one Arizona legislator is trying to make sense of this. Assistant House Minority Leader Ruben Gallego is formulating a bill that will formalize the rights of those above twenty-one to possess an ounce of weed, cultivate five plants and smoke inside their homes. When I called him, he was forthright. “If somebody is of a sane state of mind, they're above the age of 21 and if their employer doesn't care, whatever -- they can go and in the comfort of the privacy of their home, they can smoke marijuana …”

I left Phoenix with my mind feeling a little more at ease. The Arizona medical marijuana battle is not over yet. However, it is clearly progressing satisfactorily with the State out ahead in some respects.


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