Arizona’s Prop 205 will legalize marijuana if passed this November. But the head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Frank Milstead, says marijuana is a gateway drug that got his son kicked out of high school. Marijuana doesn’t need to be legalized anyway, Milstead explains, because the state’s medical marijuana program is a lie and a joke.
(KTAR News) ”People in Arizona who want to smoke marijuana today can smoke marijuana,” he said. “They just have to go see one of the quacks to get a medical marijuana card, and they can smoke all of the grass that they want to smoke.”
“Eighty-some-odd percent of (the cards) are issued to white male kids under the age of fricking 25,” Milstead claimed. “If I had chronic pain at 25, I don’t know where I’d be today.”
Never mind the fact that chronic pain isn’t a condition limited to just frail old people. People aged 25 can be military vets, high school or collegiate athletes, construction workers, or suffer congenital conditions, car wrecks, or other accidents that lead to chronic pain. The most troubling part of Milstead’s comments are his reliance on hackneyed stereotypes rather than his state’s own data.
The Arizona Department of Health Service administers the state’s medical marijuana program. It issues monthly reports that include the demographics of the program.
May 2016 Report – Patient Demographics - 99,895 patients included.
Less than 18 years = 0.16%
18 to 30 years = 24.82%
31 to 40 years = 20.45%
41 to 50 years = 15.74%
51 to 60 years = 18.42%
61 to 70 years = 15.96%
71 to 80 years = 3.68%
81 and older = 0.78%
So “eighty-some-odd percent” of medical marijuana cardholders in Arizona are not under age 25, they’re actually under age 60. Yes, there are about two male cardholders for every female cardholder, but the average age of the males is 43 and for the females is 47.
More than four-out-of-five cards are issued for chronic pain, with another one-in-ten that are issued for two or more conditions. However, of all the conditions marijuana is recommended for, we actually have some of the best scientific proof of medical efficacy for chronic pain, especially the neuropathic variety.
It’s certainly reasonable to believe that some of the chronic pain patients in Arizona are recreational consumers who’ve managed to game the system, but nobody can believe it is all of them. With the nation in the grips of an opioid overdose epidemic and recent evidence that medical marijuana access dramatically reduces opiate use and overdose, why should we be freaking out about pain patients using marijuana, a non-toxic substance that cannot kill?
As for the “quacks” issuing medical recommendations, again, you can’t reasonably assume all doctors are quacks. But the quacky docs and the faking patients who do exist are a function of prohibition restricting access to a popular consumer product. If you really think medical marijuana is “a joke and a lie”, then support the marijuana legalization that removes the incentive to joke and lie.
Milstead is not alone in suffering from an aspect of Reefer Madness known as Confirmation Bias. He’s too close to the issue, attributing his son’s dysfunctional relationship with marijuana to the entire population of cannabis consumers. This is not to dismiss his son’s difficulties. Some people do have dependence issues and they’re serious mental health problems not to be taken lightly.
But if his son had been an alcohol or oxycodone problem, I doubt Milstead would be calling for their prohibition and the criminalization of his son. The fact his son had a marijuana problem under prohibition shows us that’s not the solution.