Attention all tokers: This is your week, that hallowed time when you can march to the Arizona Department of Health Services and offer up all manner of explanation for why a bit of weed would ease your considerable suffering.
Already we have two petitions in, hoping to add six new ailments to the list of debilitating diseases and conditions that would allow you to legally (under state law, anyway) smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Medical marijuana eked its way into Arizona in 2010, winning a whopping 50.13 percent of the vote. The law allows anyone with a doctor’s recommendation to obtain a state-issued card entitling them to 2½ ounces of pot every two weeks.
They can grow it themselves, which explains all those hydroponics stores popping up. (You didn’t really think there was a sudden demand for growing tomatoes, did you?)
If they don’t want to grow their own reefer, they can have a licensed “caregiver” — and by caregiver I mean anyone who isn’t a felon — grow it for them, or they can get it from a non-profit dispensary once they’re open, probably later this year.
The card is $150, for the state’s cost to administer the program. But if you’re on food stamps, the state will cut the price in half. Think of it as discount doobie.
In approving the program, voters envisioned medical marijuana helping with Granny’s glaucoma or a loved one’s battle with cancer.
In fact, only 2 percent of those using marijuana have glaucoma and 4.5 percent have cancer. Meanwhile, 87 percent are smoking dope to battle “severe and chronic pain.”
Of the 18,000 Arizonans using marijuana for medicinal purposes, nearly 75 percent are male.
“I guess we suffer so much more pain, don’t you think?” said DHS Director Will Humble, who opposed the law but now must administer it.
It is curious that three-quarters of Arizona’s sanctioned pot smokers are men. Especially when you consider that women report more intense pain in virtually every category of disease, according to a new Stanford University School of Medicine study.
Then again, maybe it’s not so curious when you consider that men are twice as likely as women to smoke weed, according to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
According to state statistics, only 13 percent of Arizonans smoking a joint for medicinal purposes are age 61 or older, while 24 percent are under 30.
Humble says he expects to have 25,000 medical marijuana users by March, at the end of the program’s first year. Expect that number to jump once dispensaries come on line.
Humble says his department has done as much as it can, given the way the law is written, to hold the line on recreational use — requiring physical examinations as opposed to the virtual exams allowed in some states, and requiring that they document the need for pot and attest to it.
How you document pain is beyond me, other than the patient’s say-so.
If the “chronic pain” loophole isn’t large enough, the law requires the state to periodically consider adding new “debilitating medical conditions” to the ones already specified for pot use.
Which brings us to this week — the first time that DHS is accepting petitions for new illnesses for which a toke might take the edge off. Humble says he plans to have any legitimate requests analyzed by the University of Arizona College of Public Health and doctors on staff at DHS before he decides whether to hold a public hearing.
He’s expecting a petition to add post traumatic stress disorder, which is already a pot-approved condition in New Mexico. As of Tuesday, no PTSD petition had been filed.
Instead, a Sun City man is petitioning to allow anyone with bipolar disorder to smoke weed. And a Black Canyon City man wants to add those suffering from anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, severe sleep disorder, poor appetite or depression.