Speakers at Medical Marijuana Hearing Criticize Strong Regulations

Here are some quotes from speakers at today's medical marijuana hearing about the proposed regulations.

The entire speech of each individual isn't represented. We're not trying to record all the thank-yous to DHS (of which there are many), just the parts we found interesting (and what we could catch.) When we refer to the rules here, we're referring to the second draft of proposed DHS rules. Also, we guessed at the spelling of the speakers' names. If we messed up your name, please shoot us a line and we'll correct the post.

Here goes:

Cancer patient: The cost of growing, if each person has to have their own facilities, will drive up the costs.

I think there needs to be three licenses. Everything speaks to dispensaries, and then we hear about growing. There have to be separate, licensed growers. [Large burst of applause.]

You probably need to look at the caretaker situation.

(Lots of people here) want to be caretakers.

[Raises his voice like a union boss, saying he doesn't want people from California and Colorado coming here and taking over. Lots of clapping for that one.]

Now, when we talk about money, it's very easy for this panel to qualify people. Do you have investors? Who are the investors?

Who determines (which qualified applicants should get a license?)

Let me tell you, in my business experience, doctors are poor businessmen. [Laughter].

Travis Figueroa, from Phoenix, Arizona: I'm basically here to make DHS and the board aware that, uh, a third of our current economy is held by our agriculture center. These people (take their quality very serious) on a day-to-day basis.

I was sad to see there were no provisions for the horticulturists of Arizona.

There will not be the supply to meet the demand of the users here, the potential qualifying patients.

Therefore, I feel there should be some sort of cultivation license added to the licenses.

Gordon McGuire: (Asks the crowd: If there were no dispensaries, is there anybody who wouldn't grow their own? Nobody raises a hand.)

Most people want to grow their own, is my point.

I have KT. (A syndrome. He talks about the treatment of his syndrome. He has pain, swelling, other symptoms.)

I also disagree with (qualifying questionable ailments like post-traumatic stress disorder.)

Alexander Wick, Arizona native: (Dad started oldest boarding school in Arizona. From 1997 to 2007, was a quadiplegic after a car accident. Alex helped take care of him.)

The main point I'm making is that nothing's perfect. What I saw him go through in a hospital, with what you get prescribed today... It's a joke.

In 1994, down at U of A, where I graduated a few years later, I had a Drugs and Society class. (A teacher who said he partook for 15 years until it made him go to sleep too much. Talked about someone who smoked pot and had the desire to kill a woman he saw walking by.)

Every person in this room is affected by propaganda.

I know for a fact it works. I know for a fact that many people need this medicine.

You guys are on a board... for a medicine you did no research for?

I want a dispensary, too.

I noticed right away, money is the No. 1 factor for people involved in this.

But nobody's worried about the patients. (Applause.)

Every doctor right now can prescribe deadly Rx medications to a 3-year-old. They can. That's the truth.

(Marijuana) is absolutely harmless, it really is.

Robert Smith: I stand before you today as a disabled veteran and a potential qualified patient. (He's wearing a sleeveless red Vietnam veteran shirt.)

(Asks how to submit an application.)

(Thomas Salow, DHS manager of the Office of Administrative Counsel and Rules, says he's not going to answer questions, but to stay tuned and "we'll inform the public" about the applications.)

(Robert asks whether his card will be recognized in other states, and whether card-holders from other states will be recognized here. As far as New Times knows, only the latter is true.)

Matthew McGow, Dexstar Marijuana Medical Services:

My fellow Arizona citizen, if they're interested in this, they're going to need what they need to do to operate a qualified dispensary.

(Talks about why he started his company, how he wants to help the smaller would-operators open a store. Seems like he's advertising a little...)

I'm wondering if you guys are going to write anything in there about obtaining seeds.

(Says he'll be outside passing out fliers.)


Supersize me. There's room for mom-and-pop shops, and there should be in this industry.

I know everybody in here can point to a number of restaurants (that might not be to the highest standards, but have great food.)

(If people care about patients,) they should have the right to be successful.

(RS: For more information about the burgeoning marijuana industry, see our recent feature article, Pot of Gold.)

(Back to Brett: Notes that pharmacies don't have limits like the ones being imposed on dispensaries.)

Let's not mention bars. No medicinal value to alcohol. Destructive to society. No patient use.

This is an herb.

This is a god-given herb, and the War on Drugs never worked. It's not going to suppress this. Over-regulation is not going to help this. Effective regulation will.

We need to let it breathe.

(Says the proposed CHAA system of distributing dispensaries is too arbitrary.)

Regarding some of the standards, I appreciate the department is concerned about what we ingest. They want people to wash their hand after handling marijuana plants. Do they require that of broccoli growers?

Businesses should be able to be open on Saturdays.

There's no good reason why Saturday should not be an open day to take in business. (It's later noted that cities, not the state, are regulating the hours of dispensaries.)

Dr. Don W. Hill, Casa Grande, Been practicing cancer medicine in the state of Arizona for 24 years now.

(Was granted an experimental license for pot from 2006 to 2010.)

(After that, couldn't get it. My patients have tried to get me to open a medical marijuana distributorship.)

(Says 30 percent of his patients over the years have used marijuana for pain and nausea. When utilized with opiate-based drugs, marijuana is effective.)

It helps get patients over the hump sometimes.

I know my patients are using it clandestinely, and whatever gets them through is okay by me.

I am fundamentally opposed to a lottery system if there is one or more potential lottery applicant in a CHAA zone.

(Perhaps the least qualified owner will end up owning a dispensary.)

(DHS needs to consider the qualities of dispensaries, and where all the profits would go.)

It makes sense to spread out the dispensaries to limit people from growing their own.

However, if you look at the number of patients in a given CHAA, (it goes up to 190,000 people.)

It's madness to think one dispensary could meet the needs of (that many patients.)

I think it makes more sense (to base it on population base.)

If a CHAA zone has 190,000 people, that would probably support 15 medical marijuana clinics. A small, rural area (with 2,000 residents) might not support any at all.

(On medical supervision and need for medical director -- he thinks it's important to keep recreational users out of the program.)

(Says he's a libertarian and won't judge smokers. But it's fallacious to say it's harmless. There are lots of carcinogens in pot smoke.)

(A medical director could explain the pros and cons of delivery system.)

I've seen two head and neck cancer patients in the last two years who were marijuana smokers only, not cigarette smokers.

(Pot system could alleviate financial strain of state. But 300 percent or 100 percent tax is "absolutely absurd.)

(The product has to be priced reasonably. If not, people may still try to buy on black market.)

Tom Salow asks to avoid repetition and notes the line is the same size as when the hearing started. It's 5:30 p.m. and the hearing has an hour left.

We'll let you digest these comments and prepare another blog post for the last hour.

Click here for Part Two of the comments.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern