Medical Marijuana

Arizona Medical Marijuana Act

In November 2010, voters passed Proposition 203, also known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. This made Arizona the 15th state, along with the District of Columbia, to have passed a medical marijuana law since 1996. Arizona’s medical marijuana law became effective on April 14, 2011 and under the new law, patients registered through the Arizona Department of Health are legally protected from state prosecution for possession or use of medical marijuana.

Evidence Supporting Marijuana’s Medical Value

Written references to the use marijuana as a medicine date back nearly 5,000 years. Western medicine embraced marijuana’s medical properties in the mid-1800s, and by the beginning of the 20th century, physicians had published more than 100 papers in the Western medical literature recommending its use for a variety of disorders. Cannabis remained in the United States pharmacopoeia until 1941, removed only after Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act which severely hampered physicians from prescribing it. The American Medical Association (AMA) was one of the most vocal organizations to testify against the ban, arguing that it would deprive patients of a past, present and future medicine.

Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief — particularly of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage) — nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia. Emerging research suggests that marijuana’s medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors and are neuroprotective.

Currently, more than 60 U.S. and international health organizations — including the American Public Health Association, Health Canada and the Federation of American Scientists — support granting patients immediate legal access to medicinal marijuana under a physician’s supervision. (Click here for a complete listing of organizations.) Several others, including the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association support the facilitation of wide-scale, clinical research trials so that physicians may better assess cannabis’ medical potential. In addition, a 1991 Harvard study found that 44 percent of oncologists had previously advised marijuana therapy to their patients. Fifty percent responded they would do so if marijuana was legal. A more recent national survey performed by researchers at Providence Rhode Island Hospital found that nearly half of physicians with opinions supported legalizing medical marijuana.