Unexpected champion of medical marijuana emerging in new fight to keep the drug legal

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by Christine LaCroix

azfamily.com

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 13 at 7:24 PM

Poll:
Do you support medical marijuana

PHOENIX -- Melvin McDonald is a Mormon, a father, a former judge and US Attorney, and surprisingly, an outspoken supporter of medical marijuana.

“I was a leader in the drug wars in the 1980’s,” McDonald said. “I’d been appointed by President Reagan as the US Attorney. Our number one priority in Arizona was drugs and we battled drugs all the years I was US Attorney.”
McDonald has since had a bit of a change of heart, at least when it comes to medical marijuana.
“Marijuana works with certain kinds of illnesses. I’ve seen it,” he said.
McDonald has seen the impact medical marijuana can have first hand.
More than 15 years ago, McDonald’s son Bennet Black was riding a “go-ped” in the intersection of Guadalupe and Val Vista in Gilbert. He was hit by a car traveling 45 miles-per-hour and suffered massive brain damage.
A year later, he developed epilepsy. Epilepsy medication saved his life, but left Bennet so nauseous he would be unable to eat for days at a time.
“I was just trying to figure out how on earth to work with these new disabilities,” Black said.
“It is a constant battle for life,” said McDonald. “And the only thing that helps with the nausea is marijuana.”
McDonald is concerned because in January State Representative John Kavanagh authored and sponsored a bill that would put a measure on the 2014 ballot that would allow voters to repeal Arizona’s medical marijuana law.
Medical marijuana has been approved by Arizona voters on three separate occasions, but Kavanagh says new facts have come to light that might change the minds of voters.
“The medical marijuana program has turned into nothing like those who voted for it were led to believe,” said Kavanagh.
Kavanagh said he was shocked by data presented in a December 2012 report on medical marijuana by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The report found that the vast majority of the state’s 34,000 qualifying medical marijuana patients are males, under the age of 40, citing unspecified chronic pain.
“This program is being abused by people who want to simply use marijuana recreationally for free,” said Kavanagh.
The Republican Fountain Hills representative goes further in his argument against medical marijuana, claiming it gives children easier access to the drug, and that it is ineffective in treating any medical conditions.
“It doesn’t help these conditions,” he said. “We’re an advanced country. We have an advanced FDA program where before anyone can market a drug for treatment, they have to scientifically prove that it is effective and it is not dangerous.”
McDonald disagrees.
“That’s like saying we won’t give someone Percocet because people abuse Percocet,” he said.
Rep. Kavanagh’s bill is currently in the process of working its way through House committees.
He said he expects to learn whether it will make it on the 2014 ballot sometime near the close of the legislative session in April.

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