Medical marijuana advocates urged Arizona lawmakers on Thursday to clamp down on unregulated marijuana clubs to ensure patients receive their recommended drugs within the guidelines of the new law.
They also asked legislators to reconsider an attempt to repeal the 2010 law that legalized marijuana to treat certain medical conditions.
There are no provisions for the so-called “compassion clubs” in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
The clubs also aren’t regulated by the state Department of Health Services, which oversees the medical marijuana program and regulates dispensaries where patients and caregivers can legally buy marijuana.
The compassion clubs typically ask patients to pay a fee to obtain marijuana even though the law does not allow people to exchange anything of value for the drug except in dispensaries, according to The Arizona Republic.
The clubs popped up statewide as patients waited for the opening of dispensaries, which were delayed because of prolonged legal battles between medical marijuana advocates and state and county officials.
At a news conference Thursday outside the State Capitol, dispensary owners and medical marijuana patients joined with advocates to ask that police, prosecutors and legislators target the unregulated clubs so patients receive their medication in a controlled and secure environment.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, has introduced a bill that would send the marijuana law back to the ballot in November 2014.
Kavanagh said voters deserve the right to rethink whether the law should have passed in the first place, pointing out that voters approved the law by a narrow margin of about 4,300 votes.
He said the program is seriously flawed, citing recent findings that only a portion of the state’s physicians are recommending marijuana, that some teens report they are obtaining pot from medical-marijuana cardholders, and that most patients are citing chronic pain as a debilitating condition —not cancer, as he says voters were led to believe.
Kavanagh questioned the effectiveness of marijuana in treating medical conditions. He also cited a decision by a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which rejected a petition to reclassify marijuana from its status as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use.
DHS statistics show that about 34,000 Arizonans are allowed to smoke or grow marijuana and 90 percent of them say the drug is used to ease their chronic pain.