AZ Medical Marijuana @ 2

November 12th, 2013 by Will Humble Leave a reply »

Our Vital Health Statistics team along with our partners at the UA College of Public Health completed our Year 2 Annual Report for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program last week. You’ll find a wide range of information in the report including data about the demographics and kinds and qualifying conditions of our cardholders, geographic distribution and rates as well as background information on the budget and fund, the various lawsuits, and de-identified information about physicians that are writing certifications.

Perhaps the most striking thing in the report is that 25 doctors have signed about 70% (about 25,000) of the 36,000 or so certifications in Year 2… and a handful of doctors wrote more than 2,000 certifications. That doesn’t necessarily mean that these doc’s aren’t acting in the best interests of their patients- but it does give us some insight into which ones we should be focusing on to ensure that they’re meeting our certification expectations. The report goes into more detail if you’re interested.

You can see some of the recommendations at the end of the report. Of course… the info in the Annual Report is just a sub-set of all of the data we have about the program… and you can see the full array of data and information including our summary monthly reports on our hub website.



  1. Mike says:

    If you look at medical marijuana as a valid medication and that certain physicians have specific expertise in the efficacy of the drug and appropriate circumstances when it will be helpful, it is not surprising at all that 70% of the certifications are from a few specialists who are experts in the field. Remember doctors aren’t even allow by law to study the drug using samples in this country (its almost impossible anyway).

    Do you also find it “striking” that most surgeries are performed by surgeons or that most babies are delivered by OBs?

    You are either intentionally misleading people by using inflammatory wording and raising false concerns in your blog and report or you are unaware of your own bias and how your biases influence you to be surprised by a perfectly logical process.

    I’m not sure which is worse.

  2. Dr. Patel says:

    I agree with Mike. This is now a medical subspecialty. Physicians that are not familiar with all of MMJ should refer to these specialized centers. We cover adverse effects, safe use, types of use, various strains, and keep in mind now, this is for 2 years, so these physicians are more experienced. These are the physicians that actually read the director’s blog. They are in communication with Cara Christ, MD.

    I did have a few problems with the report that failed to address serious issues in this program. With regards to pain management, physicians are dropping patients if they find out they are on MMJ. It is a fear of losing their DEA license b/c under federal law this is still considered recreational. Patients have to choose between addictive opioids like oxycontin or MMJ.

    The relatively low number of certifications for cancer can be attributed to lack of awareness by the Oncologists on the effectiveness. Especially when it pertains to the severe adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

    Employers are now able to access patient cards to see if they are legitimate patients. However, employers are also dismissing these patients based on a medical condition, stating their previous by-laws or federal law.

    If employers are not recognizing this as a medicine, if law enforcement are still pursuing patients with cards as criminals, it makes sense that the numbers for this program stay low or are in decline. The next report should include statewide comparisons of cost of MMJ cards.

  3. James says:

    The report states:
    “Since the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program went into effect on April 14, 2011, the goal of ADHS was to ensure the development and administration of the pre-eminent program in the country for medical use of marijuana”.

    How does the department expect to administer the “pre-eminent program in the country” when it utilized a random selection process to determine the players in the field?

    As everyone can see, that process was an abysmal failure. Once you lost the pre-qualifiers, the department should have changed its selection process. Dispensary owners – who by and large don’t have the business acumen that would be required in ANY other industry will do anything – legal or not – to try to stop losing money; compassion clubs have not been sent a cease and desist letter by the department; there’s no ongoing mandatory training required of DA’s to ensure that they have continuing education; and applicants who claimed that they had a physical site or had money weren’t challenged once they received the extension. What would it have taken to have interviewed those people, reviewed what they had done in the past year and then either approve or disapprove additional time?

    In short, the department has given applicants who lied in their applications (they fully knew that they weren’t going to be able to open in the site submitted, but knew they could change it for $2500 bucks; they didn’t really have $150k, but paid someone $5k to add their name to their bank account for a month) another year to open because you didn’t immediately hold them accountable for the voracity of their initial applications. Equally important, that failure/refusal to make everyone play by the rules – that you established – has caused serious credibility problems for the department (the next round of applicants know all they have to do is sue, or appeal and then sue when the next round comes along). Wait until people start changing CHAA’s – the cities are going to be angry because your department promised a certain number of sites in their cities; struggling dispensaries in remote areas are going to move into more populated areas and your objective of avoiding clustering and giving access to remote patients will be lost. The 25 mile people will be happy because there won’t be dispensaries near them and they can resume – or just continue – growing.

    The department has seen the fallout – whether it wants to admit it or not – of using a lottery. There have been receiverships, lawsuits, administrative complaints, charges of illegal activity, challenges and shenanigans because of those applicants who “gamed the system” initially …yet received the ball!

    So, Director Humble, let’s not just give lip service to creating “a pre-eminent program”. You’ve done a lot of things right, but unfortunately those that were done wrong have had devastating effects for the industry. These comments are meant to be constructive and are made by people who are involved in this industry every day – and not by some U of A group who I bet didn’t spend one moment interviewing one person in the field. What about a questionnaire to actual dispensary owners, agents next year to find out what’s REALLY happening in the field?

    You don’t build a house on a foundation of marshmallows. If you don’t start with qualified applicants, you will NEVER have a pre-eminent program, as much as that might be your goal.

  4. Farrok says:

    What I find amusing is somehow the idea that medical users are just a bunch of young people who are out to smoke Pot.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every time I go to a MM dispensary all I see are a lot of old people who are very ill on crutches, limping or in a wheel chair.

    This article insinuated that there is something wrong with the physicians that give MM authorizations? I would like to say, thank God they are there and are not quailed by the State of Arizona. These physicians help many, many people.

    I suggest the State of Arizona begin to take notice of of serious issues in our state, like robbery, house breaking, rape, murder, corruption, etc. Not a physician who is helping a very ill citizen.

    Keep the slight of hand tricks to the lawyers tongues and the accounts fingers and leave physicians and the ill alone.

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