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9/22/2010 6:00:00 AM
Ailing Arizonans would benefit from medical marijuana
David Rookhuyzen
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX - Heather Torgerson wrote a college paper against the use of medical marijuana. Today, however, she says what once seemed so wrong then is the reason she's survived brain cancer.

She almost had to stop treatment after chemotherapy and radiation left her nauseated and fatigued. When prescriptions and homeopathic remedies didn't reverse her weight loss, she turned to marijuana.

Torgerson said her appetite returned within five minutes.

"I owe my life to it," she said.

As chair of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, Torgerson says many Arizonans would benefit if voters approve Proposition 203, a ballot measure that would legalize the medical use of marijuana.

The proposition would allow a qualifying person with a doctor's recommendation to receive 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from licensed dispensaries. Qualifying conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and chronic pain.

The Arizona Department of Health Services would register and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers to use marijuana or grow up to 12 plants if they live far from a dispensary.

With most of its funding in the form of cash and in-kind contributions from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington D.C.-based lobbying group, Torgerson's group gathered enough petition signatures to place the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana. Minnesota voters also are deciding a ballot measure in November.

Meanwhile, California's Proposition 19 would legalize and regulate marijuana much like tobacco or alcohol.

Arizona voters approved medical marijuana use in 1996, but the measure never took effect because it would have required a doctor's prescription, which is illegal under the federal law. Proposition 203 instead would require a doctor's recommendation, which would have the same weight as a prescription but only on a state level.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year that the government wouldn't prosecute marijuana users who comply with state laws.

Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, says the measure will protect the seriously ill.

"Right now those people face a really terrible choice," Myers said. "They either have to continue suffering with a serious, debilitating medical condition or they have to follow their doctor's advice, use marijuana illegally and then live in fear of arrest and prosecution."

Opponents, however, say that the law is less about medicine and more about protecting marijuana users.

"Saying that this is for medicine for sick people is an absolute smokescreen," said Carolyn Short, chairwoman of a group calling itself Keep AZ Drug Free, Proposition 203's chief opposition.

Short said a loophole in the measure is the inclusion of severe and chronic pain as a qualifying condition. In other states with medical marijuana laws, she said, almost all patients use the drug for pain rather than serious illness.

In addition, Short said the allowed 2.5 ounces would equal 200 joints, which she said is more than one person can smoke in two weeks.

"What happens to the excess?" Short said. "I think we know what happens to the excess."

Myers said the 2.5-ounce allowance is necessary since most patients consume marijuana with food, which require more of the drug.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the Food and Drug Administration hasn't tested marijuana for safety and efficacy and added that the voters shouldn't be able to circumvent this process.

"There are no other medications that people vote on," he said.

If the measure passes, however, Humble said his department would implement the system in a fair and efficient way.

In the Secretary of State's Office publicity pamphlet, five county sheriffs and 11 county attorneys state their opposition to Proposition 203.

"If this proposition passes, a cottage industry of physician recommendations, caregivers and pot shops will spring up overnight in our communities," their statement says.

Torgerson said the proposition's detractors lack the unique perspective that she and others share.

"I'm not mad at them; they just don't know," she said.

ICT - Kingman Honda
Related Stories:
• Letter: Get the facts on Prop. 203
• Arizona to vote - again - on medical marijuana

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Article comment by: Joe (Last name withheld)

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, is illinformed and speaking only half truths- and THAT'S being generous.

While the Food and Drug Administration hasn't widely tested marijuana for safety and efficacy, many other scientific studies from around the world have.

There are NO reliably documented deaths attributed directly with the use of cannabis. Heck, the LD-50 for the substance is one-third your body weight, or about 1,500 pounds, consumed ALL AT ONCE!

It is some we applied commons sense policy particularly at it relates to cannabis in Arizona.

Vote YES on Propostion 203!

Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Article comment by: David Miller

When I went through my first round of chemo, I prayed for God to take me. I had headaches so bad I couldn't walk, talk or think. The nausea was such that because of the chemo, I could not keep any food down, and had an overall feeling that I was dying 24 hours a day. This went on three times a week for 10 weeks. Finally, it was over! No. They said it didn't work and I would have to go through it all over again.

I would have killed myself because the cure felt worse than the disease ever could, if not for my family. Through the 2nd round I was instructed by a top physician to ingest small amounts of marijuana before and after treatment. It was a miracle! I could think without pain. I could actually eat without puking it all back up and I felt good enough to do more than sleep all day. I was able to hold my 3 year old daughter for the first time in over three months.

I had to do a third round, this time bed ridden in a hospital. I had chemo every single day for three weeks, without access to marijuana. The only way I got through the 3rd round was Morphine. I was pumped to the eyeballs on morphine. I hallucinated, attempted escape on several occasions, and even called the police because the morphine made me think the doctors were trying to kill me. I don't know which was worse, the chemo or the morphine. Certainly the after effects of the massive amounts of morphine were worse than any other treatment I have ever had.

My cancer is now in remission, and it is slowly being held at bay because of marijuana. The initiative to deny me and anyone else who is suffering denying them legal access to the only medicine that has the positive proven results it is not only astounding, but down right criminal.

Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2010
Article comment by: Please Vote Yes

Big Pharma is killing us. Weeds are not illegal. My liver is dying from pills. Read the effects of prescription meds.

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010
Article comment by: Thats right CM


Your absolutely right. I just love how the opposition doesnt have a clue. The refusal to accept anything they dont want to believe is their weakness.

Fact is...Unless you have personal experience with Medicinal Marijuana useage. You dont know what your talking about.

Most opposition believe its all about getting high. I have news for you. I get about as high as I do after one shot of liquor. What I do get is increased Stamina, flexiblity, a huge decrease in nerve pain, and the general feeling at least in my mind. Im a whole physical person again.

Most of all the positive outlook of wanting to participate in LIFE. Rather than feeling like a Broken Cripple. Useless to myself and everyone around one word a "burden". Thats something not understood until your living it.

If battery acid did the same for me...Id be drinking it daily.

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010
Article comment by: C M

2.5 oz could be 200 joints if your joints only had a fraction of a gram in it. Let's teach Mrs. Short some math I use about 1 to 2 grams per joint as a california med user, there is 28.5 grams in 1 oz. if i use 1g per joint that is 28.5 joints. But personally i use about 2g per joint so that makes 14.25 joints per 1oz. She doesn't smoke so what makes her think she knows?

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Article comment by: Mrs Short Knows your dosage?

Mrs Short....Are you a Doctor?...Are you a Pharmacutical researcher?...What experience do you really have with Marijuana?..

Id like to know...Your the head of Keep AZ drug free...What does that mean?...What Qualifacations are required to head such a group?.

Your comment "thats 200 Joints, More then a person could need in two weeks.....Just how did you come to that conclusion?..How many people do you know that smoke 40-60 cigarettes a day?
Its also a drug is it not?...Ask any Doctor if Nicotine is not HIGHLY addictive and causes massive damage throughout the body.

Marijuana is being used to treat asthma...Its a vasodilator which allows an asthmatic to recovery faster and remain less prone to attacks....LOOK IT UP Mrs Short...Watch Dr. Len Richmonds Documentary "What If Cannibis Cured Cancer"..
Ill bet you havent heard of it have you?

BTW, One ounce is required to make one pan of brownies....Several Ounces are needed to make Cannibutter. It seems you hardly know anything about the subject, quantity, and dosage you claim to be an authority on.

So what is it...Do you know anything?. Or are you just a Mouthpiece? This is Serious Business were finally dealing with here....You DO NOT have anything solid to back up anything you claim...You just have fear and retoric...

Guess what Mrs Short...The population has been reseaching and observing Marijuana since the 70's pretty indepth. Now that the American Medical Association has reversed its support of the justice depts Schedule One Marijuana ranking. The AMA is now doing its own research WITHOUT government interferance. The governments stand has been any research not conducted by the federal government, using government grown Marijuana was ILLEGAL..Now tell me...Why?...I can think of only one reason...They Know its not a threat and is a useful Medication.

You know the US Government could never fess up to a lie spaning over 7 decades...they still havent fessed up to Agent Orange or Gulf War syndrome completely either....You trust them?

I dont...Ill take REAL unsolicited professionals research findings thank for your opinion..You really dont have one that can be properly discussed. Im not going to waste time discussing old lies and fearmongering.

The responsible vote on prop 203 would be YES.
End the lies now.

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Article comment by: Old retoric

Keep AZ drug free... Why cant they have New Points to argue with. All that they offer is the same old wornout retoric from 2 decades ago.
Simply put. They just refuse to accept anything they dont want to believe. ..Its time to get to the truth.

If you Really want to know the LASTEST testing on the medical benefits of Marijuana. Do this topic justice and watch this DVD. "What if Cannibis Cured Cancer" Dr Len Richmond. ( 19.95....I believe any "group" or civic center could show this to packed houses.

This documentary highlights the four cannibanoids found in Marijuana. The effects of these agents on cancer cells are in a word AMAZING. One cannibanoid Stops new cancer cell growth, another attacks cancer cells WITHOUT attacking healthy cells..unlike Chemo or radiation treatment. Dont believe me...Watch the documentary for yourself.

This is something everyone needs to view. I also suggest you read Prop 203 more then once. It is NOT the same as California an Colorado.

Prop 203 is SANE...not full of 250 "diagnoses" that warrant a Medical Recommendation. If passed People in Arizona will NOT be able to get a Card simply because not having Marijuana "bumms them out". The wording of the Proposal is Specific and Strict compared to Our Neighboring state.

Whatever you do...Use you Brain and common sence...Dont just Need jerk Vote NO because your Political party says you should....Read, research, think before you vote.

This is a responsible Proposition aimed to Help responsible Adults that have a history and real diagnoses from their regular doctors. This is NOT an easy scam for just any stoner to cash in on. Read the LAW...Please.

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Article comment by: Vote YES on Prop 203

I am a firm believer that Marijuana should be leagalize for medical use....under strict rules and guidelines. VOTE YES ON PROP 203 in November!

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Article comment by: Warren O

'"What happens to the excess?" Short said. "I think we know what happens to the excess." [...] "If this proposition passes, a cottage industry of physician recommendations, caregivers and pot shops will spring up overnight in our communities," their statement says.'

What nonsense. Making drugs illegal has done absolutely nothing to stop their distribution or use. All it's done is criminalize a recreational activity.

Pot is demonstrably, provably less harmful than booze (no one ever gets stoned and goes on to beat his wife and kids), but you don't hear these complainers decrying corner liquor stores.

It's time for the campaigns of FUD to come to an end. Our "war on drugs" is ludicrously puritanical in the best of times this kind of drivel is simply indefensible and unworthy of an allegedly educated electorate.

Voters wouldn't have to cast ballots, but the way, if the foolish laws against pot didn't exist in the first place - so it's disingenuous at best to suggest there's something extraordinary about these measures.

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