John Kavanagh, the Republican State Representative from Fountain Hills, doesn't want any exceptions in a proposed medical-pot repeal for patients with cancer, AIDS, or any other serious disease.
Verifiable illness or not, they would be booked into jail under Arizona's felony possession law like any of the hundreds of people booked by Phoenix alone for nothing but pot violations each year.
We asked Kavanagh today if his proposed referendum, which if passed would lead to a ballot proposition in 2014, could at least include an exemption for those with illnesses more serious than "chronic pain."
Kavanagh has said that the "pain" category is just a cover for recreational users, and he's at least partially right about that.
In the latest officials stats from the Arizona Department of Health Services, about 90 percent of 33,633 active medical-marijuana patients claimed chronic pain as one of their qualifying conditions, (that's not a hard number because patients can list more than one condition.) Nearly 20 percent are males 18-to-30 years old.
But even assuming that most patients are faking in order to get high, that leaves thousands of Arizona patients with actual illnesses that marijuana may help relieve, such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, nerve pain, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease or others.
Kavanagh says he doesn't support an exemption for sick people "because marijuana is not an accepted treatment for those conditions."
Yet Kavanagh is a retired cop, not a doctor.
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Marijuana may not be accepted by the Food and Drug Administration, (neither are many herbal supplements), but it has been recommended by some doctors, for some conditions, for years. Kavanagh must not have read our May 24, 2012 feature article about medical marijuana. Here's an excerpt:
The American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health wrote in a 2009 paper that:
"Results of short-term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake -- especially in patients with reduced muscle mass -- and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis."
About 34,000 people hold medical-marijuana cards in Arizona, although that number has almost certainly been kept down by the battle against the voter-approved Medical Marijuana Act by Governor Jan Brewer. The first state-approved dispensaries, which had been delayed for more than a year because of Brewer's heavy-handed actions, opened only last month. It also seems likely that many sick patients who wouldn't ordinarily consider marijuana to manage their symptoms have been hesitant to participate in the program out of fear drummed up by key Republican state leaders.
Before the program has even really started, Kavanagh would prefer to see it ended.