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Senator blocking bill to allow UA med pot research funding

Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix (File photo)

Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix (File photo)

A Phoenix Republican lawmaker is using her power to singlehandedly kill a House-passed bill that could provide the necessary funds to finally have a study of possible beneficial effects of medical marijuana.

Sen. Kimberly Yee acknowledged Thursday she will not give a hearing to HB2333. That House-passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, would provide a use for the estimated $6 million the state Department of Health Services has accumulated in fees from medical marijuana patients and dispensaries.

More to the point, it would open the door for a University of Arizona researcher to her seeking a share of those dollars for her proposal to determine whether the drug can used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yee insisted she’s not against legitimate research, pointing out she sponsored legislation last year to actually allow marijuana on university campuses for such studies. But she does not think that should be a priority for using state dollars.

“I believe these funds would be better used to educate our general population, especially our youth, about the harms of recreational marijuana,” she said.

That’s also the stance of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

She acknowledged HB2333 also allows state Health Director Will Humble to use some funds for such a program. But Polk prefers SB1389, sponsored by Yee, which would require all the cash in the fund to be used to discourage illegal marijuana use.

“Kids are smoking marijuana at a younger and younger age,” Polk said, a situation that is not be being helped by Arizona having a medical marijuana program. “Clearly, the kids are getting a mixed message.”

But Orr noted that Yee’s measure failed in the Senate.

“It’s a moot point,” he said, leaving his bill as the only viable option with any sort of educational component.

“This should not be an ego battle,” he said. And Orr said Yee failed to return multiple messages asking that his bill get a hearing.

Yee acknowledged that killing HB2333 could endanger the plans by Sue Sisley, a University of Arizona doctor, to conduct research on whether marijuana might help former soldiers with PTSD.

Sisley cleared a key hurdle just last week with approval of her study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But she had hoped to finance at least part of the cost with those state dollars.

Yee said promises were made when she pushed last year’s marijuana-on-campus legislation that any research would be federally funded.

Sisley said that was not the case, though she acknowledged telling lawmakers she would look for “public donations.” But in the interim, she learned of the $6 million surplus sitting in the account.

“What I’m contending is the private donors have already paid into a fund to support research,” Sisley said. “We just need to have the opportunity to access it.”

The 2010 voter-approved law allows those with certain medical conditions and a doctor’s permission to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

But the approved list does not include PTSD. And state Health Director Will Humble cannot add it, absent some peer-reviewed research showing the drug would be effective.

Sisley hopes to provide that research.

Even with HHS approval, she still needs a go-ahead from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration before being able to get the drugs for research. But she also needs a source of funds.

HB2333 would allow Humble to award funds for any university-sponsored research on the safety, efficacy and adverse effects of the drug.

It also would allow him to contract with local health departments and others for programs “for preventing and reducing marijuana use among persons who are under 24 years of age.” But both Yee and Polk say that language is insufficient to ensure there will be an adequate anti-marijuana message.

Orr’s measure does have broad support, with just five lawmakers in the 60-member House voting against his plan. But to get to the Senate floor, it first has to be approved by the Senate Education Committee, something that can’t happen if Yee won’t even bring it up for a vote.

Yee’s intransigence drew fire from Tucsonan Ricardo Pereyda, who served as a military policeman in Iraq and said he suffers from PTSD.

Pereyda has other medical conditions which allow him to legally buy marijuana. But he said many of his colleagues are not so fortunate — and need the research to make the drug available to others with PTSD.

“The need is self-evident,” he said.

“There’s an estimated 22 veterans a day committing suicide,” Pereyda said. “We’ve lost more veterans due to suicide than actual combat.”

Pereyda said the marijuana helps him.

“I brought that war home with me and have been fighting for my life since,” he said. “I almost put a bullet in my head because I did not know how to cope with what I had seen and been a part of in the sandbox.”

10 comments

  1. The Devil is really working overtime through the Republicans of late..

  2. While Arizona ranks sixth highest (nationwide) in death rates for prescription drug overdoses our republican legislators want to spend more time going after medical marijuana patients rather than to deal with serious drug problems that actually kill people here. No one in Arizona has ever died of an overdose of marijuana (cannabis). Yet more people are now killed in Arizona from prescription drug overdoses than from traffic accidents [Trust for America's Health (TFAH)]. This is more of the 70 plus year effort on the part of our government to misrepresent cannabis to the people of Arizona and to the American people. At the same time it allows our legislature to ignore far more serious drug problems in Arizona that directly relate to public safety. When the research is not done they point to the lack of research as a reason to keep people from using cannabis. Dr Gupta discussed the distortion of evidence and failure to allow research into benefits of cannabis that has characterized the government’s policy for many years in his recent documentaries. Both documentaries are worth watching. In 1974 at the medical center at the University of Virginia, researchers implanted several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung cancers, in mice, then treated them with cannabinoids (unique, active components found in cannabis). THC and other cannabinoids shrank tumors and increased the mice’s lifespans. Munson, AE et al. Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Sept. 1975. p. 597-602. The problem with many chemotherapy compounds is that they are highly toxic. Cannabis, for all practical purposes, is not.

    It was during this research that the DEA shut down further studies primarily because they did not like the positive attention that the studies were receiving. In stopping the research they effectively put off further study for over twenty five years until a researcher in Spain (Dr Manuel Guzman) found similar results.

    People like Kimberly Yee would be better to spend their time burning books if they don’t want us to know about cannabis. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act called for the support of research. Those who are arrogant and selfish do not want to allow others to have any evidence that would certainly contradict them. Kimberly Yee is not a friend to educated people in Arizona. There are many valid reasons for this PTSD research to be done. This mean spirited republican obstruction to Arizona’s medical marijuana laws needs to stop before we all decide to legalize and regulate rather than to deal with the obstacles that they put before patients.

  3. Ms Yee: Your despicable act will not be accepted. Your propaganda must not compete for funding with scientific study. Reverse your unconscionable decision NOW.

  4. the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    Senator Yee runs Arizona and marijuana is her #1 target, look out

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol and Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever

    AMERICA’S WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON AMERICANS! 33

  5. Clearly the Honorable Senator Yee has not done her homework on marijuana and is just spewing out things she has heard, OR has significant backing from pharmaceutical companies. And it’s sad. God gave us everything we need to heal our wounds and yet we are led to believe we have to have unnatural pharmaceuticals, a growing number of which are proving to deal with one issue while creating a significant number of serious–even fatal–side effects. This entire story is a tragedy.

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