If you ever smoke or use marijuana, it's time to see the doctor.
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is the law of the land, and now the state Department of Health Services has provided a map to legal immunity for anyone interested in possessing pot. The final rules from the DHS spell out exactly need to be done to obtain a recommendation from a doctor for a state medical-marijuana card.
Sure, Arizona's program is less liberal than California's, where people legally use marijuana for ailments as relatively minor as anxiety or insomnia. Our law's criteria for who qualifies is stricter, and some potential applicants are already getting turned down for recommendations by physicians.
Those with legit medical problems certainly owe it themselves to give pot a try, especially if they've tried heavier, opiate-based pain or anti-nausea medications.
But beyond that, potheads, stoners, or occasional burners would be crazy, or stupid, not to at least try to obtain a card.
Getting busted with any amount of marijuana is a felony in Arizona. You'll be arrested and possibly taken to jail. If you're convicted -- welcome to your new life as an ex-con with a rap sheet (albeit a minor one).
If you have a card, though, you won't be arrested. You won't be convicted. Indeed, in many cases you'll be allowed to keep your marijuana and continue using it.
Let's put it another way: If you end up busted this time next year and you didn't even try to get your card, you'll have screwed yourself.
Forget what state officials have been saying about wanting to keep non-patient or "recreational" users from legally possessing marijuana. This is your life we're talking about. Do you think Obama, George W., or Bill Clinton would have gotten to be president if they'd gotten busted? Hell, no.
So don't you get busted either -- get legal. Or try to get legal, anyway. We don't want to encourage you to lie, but you probably have some pain issues, don't you?
You heard it might be tougher if you're 25 and have never seen a doctor in your life? Find out for yourself. The worst that could happen is you'll be out a few bucks for the doctor visit.
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Of course, any pot user who's been seeing a doctor for chronic pain regularly but fails to obtain the card would be a complete bonehead. Would it make sense for a law-abiding driver to never seek a driver's license? Why steal a book you want to read from the library instead of getting a library card?
Okay, now that we've convinced you, here's what to do:
Find the right doctor. Ask your regular physician or find one of the local doctors who are turning marijuana recommendations into a cottage industry. We hear that some even advertise in New Times.
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The doctor will ask for your medical records and history and charge you a fee. Some outfits will handle the whole process for you, including submitting the state application.
After April 14, you can submit your application online. You'll submit the $150 fee with a payment card, attaching a photo and your doctor's recommendation with associated records. (It's only $75 if you're on food stamps.) You can find all the necessary forms and FAQs on the DHS' website.
Don't procrastinate, either. While it's true that the dispensaries won't open with their products until the fall, having your card makes it legal for you to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces immediately, no matter where it came from.
The choice is yours, and it's simple: handcuffs and jail, or "you're free to go."