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Rep. Kavanagh Urges Voters to Reconsider Medical Marijuana Act

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 16:02

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Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee, MCT

Dispensary owner Stephen Gasparas, left, sorts bags of marijuana at his establishment in Redding, California.

Arizona voters may be experiencing a case of déjà vu in 2014 if Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, succeeds in sending the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act back through the voting process. In 2010, after several recounts of the ballots, Proposition 203 passed by a miniscule margin of 4300 votes. Kavanagh believes this round will be different by margin and outcome.

Kavanagh introduced HCR-2003 in January, which, if passed, would have voters once again deciding the legal status of medical marijuana. He says what was stated in 2010 about the use of medical marijuana is a far cry from the way it is being used now.

One concern Kavanagh describes as “the last straw” is that of alleged improper disbursement of medically prescribed marijuana by cardholders.

“Of children who use marijuana illegally, 11 percent are now getting it from cardholders,” he says, referencing a recent survey conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.

In addition to this concerning statistic, Kavanagh avidly emphasizes the public is misinformed on who receives medical marijuana cards and what they are treated for.

“Those who are receiving medical marijuana are demographically far different from what voters were told,” he says. “They emphasized cancer and Crohn syndrome and AIDS.”

Kavanagh states that 90 percent of current cardholders are being treated for pain—an ailment he describes as “hard to disprove and easy to fake.”

Gary Garcia, a 60-year-old cardholder from Mesa, says his pain is not faked. Garcia suffers from bulging disc sciatica, a disorder resulting from bulging discs in his back that place pressure on his sciatic nerve. The disorder has caused difficulty sleeping, walking and working as a result of severe pain, Garcia says.

“They gave me pills for pain,” he says, “but I don’t want to take them.”

The medication he was taking, primarily Vicodin, caused him severe indigestion as well as high blood pressure, and only worsened his physical condition.

“I don’t want to take chemicals in a pill to help alleviate my pain,” Garcia says, “because medical marijuana does not have those side effects.”

Tom Narva, 23, of Apache Junction obtained his medical marijuana card for treatment of epilepsy. He says he keeps himself informed on issues regarding medical marijuana, most recently taking interest in a chemical component of marijuana called CBD.

“There are different chemicals that you can extract out of marijuana,” he says. “CBD can help epilepsy.”

Although Narva is hopeful for the future of medical marijuana, he is aware many people view it differently.

“Yes, there are some illegitimate people who get it for pain,” he says. “Pain may be not as critical of an item, but marijuana helps… After surgeries and stuff like that, you’ll have pain for the rest of your life. You may be able to walk, but you’ll have pain.”

Come 2014, medical marijuana cardholding patients like Narva and Garcia may be forced to hand over their cards in exchange for more mainstream forms of treatment. Kavanagh is confident that has strong support from both legislative and federal officials.

“The American Medical Association’s current position is the same as it always has been – that medical marijuana is a dangerous drug and a public health hazard,” he says.

Although medical marijuana maintains public support, further observation of its use over the past two years has raised concerns, and it is Kavanagh’s intent to bring these concerns to the public with the introduction of HCR-2003.

“Given the fact that the programs are different than what the people were told…it seemed reasonable to me to allow the voters to take a second look at this flawed program,” he says.

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