Patients finding relief with medical marijuana
KINGMAN - Chance Anderson may be the best advertisement for medical marijuana in town. The 35-year-old works at the year-old Kingman Green Dispensary on Northern, and he is also walking, talking billboard.
"I have used medical marijuana for a long time," Anderson said.
Anderson suffered such severe muscle spasms that it impeded his ability to breathe, landing him in the emergency room on several occasions. At the time, only muscle relaxers and similar drugs kept Anderson breathing.
"I didn't like the drugs they were constantly giving me," Anderson said. "I started to do research on alternatives, including medical marijuana, and talked to my doctor, who helped me get what I needed."
For him, Anderson said, the THC relaxes the muscles and keeps him out of the hospital.
Sara Call, who manages the local dispensary and has a degree as a pharmacy technician, said the biggest problem facing those who support the use of medical marijuana is a lack of information.
"So many people have the impression that we are supporting a lifestyle of sitting around, smoking pot and getting high," she said. "This is so far from the truth. We are about making people's lives better."
Medical marijuana has been a hot topic in Arizona - when Arizona Proposition 203 (also known as Arizona Medical Marijuana Act) finally did pass, it was by just 51.1 percent of the vote.
"The state of Arizona approved medical marijuana in 2010 and our dispensary opened here in May of 2013," Call said.
Just this week, the Arizona Department of Health Services gave the green light for the use of medical marijuana to assist those with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The dispensary offers several ways to ingest marijuana, and the least of those is smoking.
"Smoking is the worst way to get the marijuana into the body, because any time you smoke, it is dangerous to your body," Call said.
Tinctures, which include lotions, sublingual drops that are placed under the tongue and suckers have been cleared by the state of Arizona.
Not everyone believes marijuana is appropriate for medical use, though.
"To me, pot is pot," said Janet Jenkins of Kingman. "I would never support using it for any reason."
The only states where medical marijuana is sold as a retail product are Washington and Colorado, and it remains illegal under federal law.
And while 23 states and the District of Columbia have approved medical uses of marijuana, it still has its opponents.
For instance, the American Society of Addiction Medicines noted on the website of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana that "ASAM recommends that all cannabis, cannabis-based products and delivery devices should be subject to the same standards applicable to all other prescription medication and medical devices, and should not be distributed or otherwise provided to patients" without FDA approval.
Other concerns include the accuracy of dosages, driving while impaired or possibly making marijuana "OK" in the eyes of young people.
While their debate wages on, Call points to success stories that have come from within the dispensary.
"We have a family with a 16-month old child who suffers with seizures," Call said. "When they began to use the drops we offer, the duration of his seizures dropped from 20 to 10 minutes and his parents report that he continues to get better.
"Most of out clients are the elderly seeking relief from a variety of problems, from arthritis to Alzheimer's disease to Lou Gehrig's disease. In every case, the person or their family has told us there has been significant decrease in the symptoms of their loved ones."
Call knows there will continue to be critics of using marijuana medically.
"We're not asking everyone to blindly believe the way we believe," Call said. "All we ask is that people do research before getting an opinion. I know marijuana can help people. I see it every day."