Week Four 02/02 – 02/08: The Role of Institutions and Actors in Developing Healthcare Policies

There are many people involved in the development of health policy. Anyone who is affected by health policy is likely involved in health policy (Longest, 2010). According to Longest (2010), laws are vague and it takes many people to interpret and develop the rules and regulations, and involves judges, attorneys, and police forces to uphold the law and its original intent. Many modifications are made to the law as loopholes are discovered (Longest, 2010).

In Arizona, there are many actors involved in the marijuana debate including voters, citizens of Arizona, medical marijuana patients, their caregivers, dispensary owners, members of associations and organizations, advocates and anti-marijuana advocates, healthcare professionals, health researchers, interest groups, law-makers, judges, police officers, the governor and attorney general, the DEA, Arizona Department of Health Services, etc. There are so many, we will only be mentioning a few key players that are involved and a few loopholes that have been discovered.

Andrew Meyers is the spokesperson from the Marijuana Policy Project and the executive director of the Arizona Dispensary Association. He helped legalize medical marijuana in 2010 and was involved in the drafting of the law. He currently is working on getting legalization of marijuana for recreational use to be on the Arizona’s 2016 ballot (Stern, 2014).

Bill Montgomery is the Maricopa County Attorney and his job is to provide “legal representation for the County government on behalf of the people of Maricopa County, to provide a safe and well-governed community (Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, n.d.).” He is involved in reinforcing health policy. He has been known for prosecuting medical marijuana cardholders for narcotic possession if they have “edibles” that contain concentrates of marijuana, such as elixirs, oils, and butters that he states are not covered under Arizona law (Stern, 2013). Arizona’s Marijuana law (n.d.) states that “usable marijuana” is defined as “the dried flowers of the marijuana plant and any mixture or preparation thereof.” However, since a judge ruling in March 2014, extracts and edibles are now allowed to be sold in marijuana dispensaries (KJZZ News, 2014).

Will Humble is the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services and implements the law by drafting the rules and regulations of the Medical Marijuana Program. Recently Fischer from the Arizona Capitol Times (2014), reported that the Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association (AZCNA) petitioned for PTSD be added as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Initially, Will Humble did not want to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions since there was not enough evidence to indicate that marijuana helped treat symptoms of PTSD. However, Judge Thomas Shedden ruled in favor of the AZCNA and stated that Humble should listen to the anecdotal evidence presented by the medical community. Since January 1, 2015, PTSD is now a qualifying condition and patients with PTSD can be certified for medical marijuana (Fischer, 2014).

Lastly, according to Stern from Phoenix New Times (2012), Allan Sobol is one of many dispensary owners in Arizona and an operator of a “cannabis club” or “compassion club.” He also holds classes for people interested in starting their own medical marijuana dispensary. A cannabis club is a place where patients can share medical marijuana with other patients. Participants may pay a cover charge as much as $75 and inside they receive “free” marijuana or are asked for “donations” as much as $400 an ounce. Sobol states that his cannabis club is legal because the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act states that certified caregivers can be compensated for growing marijuana for their patients (Stern, 2012). Cannabis clubs are technically not illegal yet, but there have been many raids and arrests to make sure that people are not buying marijuana and that everyone there has a marijuana card.

References

Arizona State Legislature. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/36/02801.htm&Title=36&DocType=ARS

Fischer, H. (2014). Health director: Arizonans may soon use medical marijuana legally for PTSD. Retrieved from http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2014/07/09/health-director-approves-marijuana-for-veterans-and-others-with-ptsd/

KJZZ News. (2014). Health director considering patient education for edible medical marijuana. Retrieved from http://kjzz.org/content/33039/health-director-considering-patient-education-edible-medical-marijuana

Longest, B. (2010). Health policymaking in the United States. (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Association of University Programs in Health Administration.

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.maricopacountyattorney.org/about-us/

Stern, R. (2012). Allan Sobol: Arizona’s medical-pot martyr? Retrieved from http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2012-08-16/news/allan-sobol-arizona-s-medical-pot-martyr/full/

Stern, R. (2013). Bill Montgomery is prosecuting a medical-pot patient for one piece of THC-infused candy. Retrieved from http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2013-11-07/news/bill-montgomery-is-prosecuting-a-medical-pot-patient-for-one-piece-of-thc-infused-candy/full/

Stern, R. (2014). Arizona marijuana-legalization campaign for 2016 ballot measure becomes officical http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2014/09/arizona_marijuana_legalization_campaign_for_2016_ballot_measure_becomes_off.php

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8 thoughts on “Week Four 02/02 – 02/08: The Role of Institutions and Actors in Developing Healthcare Policies

    1. Cannabis clubs are clearly riding on the fine line of legality, am I right? I hold a neutral stance on medicinal marijuana, as I have seen both the positive and negative effects to those around me and in the media’s light (positive: https://www.facebook.com/OfferHopeForLandon). These clubs need be very careful with their linguistics, as a term like “donating/donations” can make all the difference in prosecution, when essentially it is the same act as selling – an agreement to transfer marijuana from one individual to another. How it is done monetarily is what seems to be essential. I feel that Chitra’s proposal that this is an illustration of policy misuse/abuse is valid. Any one else feel differently?

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  1. I was looking at some of the small interest groups that are hoping to get the legalization of Marijuana on the 2016 ballot. I see no information about a tax that would be placed on the drug if legalized. In the state of AZ we have a huge problem with educational funding. When Colorado legalized this drug they placed a tax on it funding the educational system. I think in order for this law to work a similar tax should be initiated to fund education. This would gain so much more support. What do you think?

    References

    What is safer arizona. (2015). Retrieved from http://saferarizona.com/

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  2. I have an actor that you might be interested in. Her name is Dr. Gina Mecagni and she is an emergency room physician at St Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and she has open up some dispensaries here in the Phoenix area. She spoke at the Pain Symposium that was held in September 2014 and will be held again in September 2015. She gave some amazing insight on what she thinks will be the future of marijuana as it relates to politics. Here is the link to her health grades page.
    http://www.healthgrades.com/physician/dr-gina-berman-y2lyp

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  3. I like your incorporation of official and unofficial actors in policymaking. I especially liked the part where modifications are made as loopholes are found. I have mixed feelings about Medical Marijuana, working in a population where drugs and alcohol is a big issue, Thank you for the information on this blog to assist me in being more objective about this issue.

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  4. Lynn, thank you for presenting individual actors (some representing state agencies) on both sides of this issue. What are some of the other institutional actors? In particular, as you are analyzing the issue from the perspective of APRN prescribing, what is the position of relevant nursing and medical advocacy organizations at the state and federal level – such as AzNA, AANP, AMA, and ACP? -HMR

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  5. I’d never heard of a Cannabis club either but I can see the benefit of one if it is used the right way and not as a cover for selling illegally and general illegal activities. Very interesting.

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  6. Lynn – Seems like there are many conflicting ideas on medical marijuana and legalizing marijuana for medicinal or recreational use. What is the Obama’s campaign’s thoughts on medial marijuana? I just can’t imagine living in a world where marijuana will be legalized for recreational use, I am worried for my child.

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