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Busy Day For Medical

Marijuana In Arizona

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Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble talks to supporters of medical marijuana.
Public Hearing To Add Migraines, PTSD, Depression And Anxiety Is Held On Deadline Day To Apply For A Dispensary Certificate

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By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine

May 26, 2012 — It was an extremely busy day for the Arizona Department of Health Services Friday, as they accepted a flood of applications for medical marijuana dispensary certificates and held a hearing to add migraines, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety to the list of acceptable medical conditions that are eligible for a patient license.

The two-week period to apply for dispensary applications began May 14. According to the latest information from the Arizona Department of Health Services, or DHS, 488 applications were received. In developing the rules that would guide Arizona’s medical marijuana program, one dispensary would be allowed in each of the Community Health Analysis Areas which the DHS uses in most of its data processing. There are 126 Community Health Analysis Areas in Arizona, and as per the rules of the medical marijuana program, dispensaries are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If more than one application is received during the application submission period, a random drawing will be held to determine who gets the dispensary certificate.

Several Community Health Analysis Areas did not receive an application. Those CHAAs are: Kaibab Paiute, Hualapai, Navajo Nation, Hopi Nation, Havasupai, White Moiuntain Apache, Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, San Carlos Apache, Colorado Indian Tribes, Yavapai-Fort McDowell, Maricopa County West, Paradise Valley, Salt River, Gila River, Chandler Northwest, Tohono O’Odham, Yuma Northwest, Cocopah, Somerton, San Luis, Ak-Chin, Tucson West, San Xavier District, Pascua Yaqui, Green Valley, Tombstone/Elfrida and Nogales.

People in those CHAAs who have obtained a user license will likely continue to be allowed to grow their own plants since the program’s regulations state that patients that do not live within 25 miles of a dispensary are allowed to cultivate enough plants for an “uninterrupted supply.”

Several CHAAs received only one application, which means that as long as those who did apply have their applications in order, they will be awarded the dispensary certificate. The CHAAs with only one application are: Littlefield, Fort Mohave, St. Johns, Globe/Hayden, Maricopa County North, Desert View/North Gateway, Glendale North, Sun City, Avondale, Mesa Central, Ahwatukee Foothills, Chandler Southeast, Duncan/Morenci, Graham County South, Yuma East, Yuma South, San Manuel, Florence, Ajo, Marana, Tucson Northwest, Arivaca, Bisbee, and Douglas.

The remaining 75 CHAAs that have at least two applications will likely be subject to a random drawing that the DHS has said will be held Aug. 7, after application reviews are completed in June and July.

“Our team just finished logging all of the applications that we received and has already started reviewing some of the applications for ‘Administrative Completeness.’  Any applications that are ‘Administratively Incomplete’ (in other words, if they’re missing something) will be returned to the applicants so they can correct whatever is wrong,” said Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “In June, we’ll be checking for ‘Substantive Completeness’ (which is a more thorough, quality review), and the applicants will have another chance to make corrections.”

The CHAAs receiving the most applications are: Catalina, Coolidge, Apache Junction, Maryvale and Payson with 10; Deer Valley, and Mesa West with 11; Casa Grande with 12; Flagstaff East, Yavapai County Northeast, Tempe North and Scottsdale North with 13; and Estrella with 16.

See detailed information on all CHAA dispenary applications (pdf)

More than 28,000 Arizonans have received patient licenses to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana when a doctor has certified that they have one of the following medical conditions: cancer; glaucoma; human immunodeficiency virus; acquired immune deficiency syndrome; Hepatitis C; ALS, Crohn's disease; agitation of Alzheimer's disease; cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; epilepsy; and severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

The public hearing held Friday would add post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, migraines, and depression to the list. Humble said the final decision will be based on medical studies proving the efficacy of marijuana in treating them, although he also acknowledged that scientific testing is difficult since marijuana is listed as a schedule 1 drug by the U.S. government.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is expected to make their ruling whether to add migraines, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety to the list of acceptable medical conditions that are eligible for a patient license by mid July. Public comment has also been accepted online and will continue to be accepted through the Memorial Day weekend. Those interested in commenting should visit  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VFSKND7.

Those speaking Friday were overwhelmingly in support of approving all four of the new potential conditions. Of the 25 people who spoke, only two were opposed to adding new conditions to the medical marijuana program.

Comments regarding the addition of post-traumatic stress disorder and migraines dominated the hearing. New Mexico and Delaware are currently the only states that permit medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder. California is the only state that currently permits medical marijuana for migraines.

Attorney Jerry Chesler said he is glad science will be a determining factor in PTSD’s inclusion into the program, but that science cannot replace common knowledge.

“This is going to be a scientific evaluation and that is a good thing. This decision should be left to the doctors and scientists,” Chesler said. “But I don’t care if it is the guys who stormed the beaches at Normandy, or guys who served in the jungles of Vietnam, or guys who were in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are suffering. From a layman's point of view, marijuana seems to help them.”

Cory Tyszka whose husband, “Crush,” suffers from PTSD but has a patient license for accompanying chronic pain, said her husband has found a modicum of peace from his nightmares thanks to marijuana. She said when an episode would occur before he started taking cannabis, he would often not sleep for the rest of that night.

“When he wakes up now, he can get up, go outside, smoke his cannabis and go back to bed,” Tyszka said.

Duane South, a former U.S. Marine said the prescription drugs he was administered for his PTSD did more harm than good so he turned to marijuana with positive results.

“When I am on them (prescription drugs) I am a zombie. But when I am off them, I want to fight. On marijuana, I can be socially acceptable again,” South said.

Stacey Theis said her migraines were not impacted by any treatment until she began using marijuana. She said when her extreme migraines would hit, she would sometimes be incapacitated for hours or days — causing her to be incapable of taking care of her daughter.

“My daughter was forced to fend for herself and take care of her mother,” Theis said. “I also believe that cannabis is a preventative for migraines.”

Charise Voss said she dislikes the “high” that cannabis provides — and for years resisted trying marijuana to treat her chronic migraines because it was illegal — so she now uses products that need not be smoked and do not impair her mind.

“My neurologist told me I had three choices: Botox shot into my brain stem, surgery or marijuana,” Voss said.

She chose surgery, but when that did not help, she finally turned to marijuana.

“For the first time in my life I am pain free,” Voss said.

John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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