Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Report Twisted in Mainstream Media

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The Arizona Department of Health Services and the University of Arizona College of Public Health prepared the 2014 Arizona Medical Marijuana Report which was just released earlier this month. The public information and statistics shared is an interesting read for patients, dispensaries, cultivators and Doctors. Although the report is well put together and unbiased, some of the mainstream media has honed in a few statistics to exploit a negative angle.

The Arizona Daily Star, covered the report with the headline Pot mills cropping up, head fears. The article hones in on the statistics that 24 doctors wrote closest to two thirds of the 51,783 qualified patient medical marijuana recommendations for 2014. It continues to mention that the State Health Director said the agency reported 30 doctors to their appropriate licensing board. After reading the report ourselves and being familiar with the medical marijuana program here in Arizona and especially in Tucson, AllBud has our own opinion on those statistics.

First, it’s easy to see why only about 25 Arizona doctors account for most of the recommendations in Arizona. There are only about 25 to 30 doctors in the state that publicly advertise that they are comfortable with medical marijuana recommendations which attracts patients to discuss the topic with them. Multiple staff on the AllBud team who have acquired cards for debilitating conditions including cancer and epilepsy all felt more comfortable seeing these more advertised doctors about their medical marijuana needs than their oncologists or neurologists. In fact, some of us even addressed the topic of medical marijuana with our specialists, but the specialists were either unfamiliar with the state’s process or unwilling to sign and put their medical license at risk given that medical marijuana is still federally classified as an illegal drug.

Regarding the reference to these doctors being reported to their state’s licensing board, page 44 of the report actually states that more than 30 have been reported since 2011, about 10 a year, for a specific issue of concern. The concern is not the amount of certifications, but rather the concern was over lack of utilizing the controlled substance database to check on use of other controlled substances. In regards to the 25 or so high certifying doctors, their boards were contacted “to request completion of the AMMA Continuing Medical Education modules to ensure complete understanding of certifying provider responsibilities”, according to the report.

Of course, this is not the first time media twists something, but as Arizona medical marijuana patients, we do get a little defensive. So while we’re providing our opinions to clear the air, we might as well also clear upon the confusion about whether or not employers have access to the Arizona registry and can look up patient information. The answer is yes and no. Yes, employers legally can sign up for access to the registry, but they can only look up information that contains both the patient’s name and registry ID. In other words, law enforcement and employers can verify whether or not someone’s possession or use of marijuana is protected as a registered medical marijuana patient. It cannot be used to randomly search for people to find out if they are patients.

Just our 2 cents! If you have some free time, check out the full report:

http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/documents/reports/2014/az-medical-marijuana-program-annual-report-2014.pdf