Like many other states, legal marijuana use for certain medical conditions is available to patients meeting the right qualifications. Arizona has allowed the use of the plant for medicinal purposes since 2010, but as with several other states, recreational use is strictly prohibited. Purchasing medicinal marijuana in Arizona requires a card, a small fee, and a registered doctor’s recommendation.

Understanding how medical marijuana affects your health and why a doctor may recommend it for a particular condition can be tricky. With further research happening each year and developments in the field constantly changing, taking control of your health is more important than ever before. Here are a few important things to know about medical marijuana, your health, and how Arizona is taking your health seriously when it comes to the subject.

Arizona’s qualifications for a medical marijuana certificate

While these guidelines and qualifications for medical marijuana may seem a bit extreme, they’re intended to safeguard the health of patients who have legitimate uses for it while discouraging abuses of the substance elsewhere throughout the state. Obtaining medicinal marijuana in Arizona requires visiting a licensed dispensary and detailed vetting/certification process. Any adult over the age of 18 to sign an attestation form stating they won’t allow their medical marijuana to be diverted to another person or source. A current photograph, the patient’s driver’s license or other government-issued ID and additional questionnaires are also required. Finally, the patient must add or update their designated caregiver. For patients under 18, the parent or legal guardian must apply together, and there is a different attestation form for them to sign. Caregivers and dispensaries also go through a rigorous application/licensing process administered by the state. Once a processing fee is paid and the application is approved, the patient receives an electronic card allowing them to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces (or grow up to 12 plants) of medicinal marijuana bi-weekly for two years (at which point the patient must reapply).  

Why a doctor may recommend medical marijuana

In all application scenarios, a doctor registered with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) must diagnose and provide validation for a qualifying condition. There are a number of reasons a doctor may decide to recommend marijuana for medicinal purposes. But before they can recommend or validate a medical marijuana recommendation, there is a rigorous qualification process in most states—including Arizona—to give doctors additional training related to recommending marijuana for medical applications. Doctors will discuss the qualifying condition with the patient and either recommend medicinal marijuana or and decide against it entirely.

How medical marijuana can help treat certain conditions

The effects of marijuana on some medical conditions are still being studied, but strong evidence suggests it can help treat conditions like epilepsy or provide relief from chronic pain. The cannabinoids in marijuana can effectively reduce anxiety, reduce pain/inflammation, tighten muscles and control nausea. It may also have additional health benefits that are still being researched. Current qualifying conditions in Arizona include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDs, Hepatitis C, any chronic/debilitating disease, ALS, PTSD, Cachexia, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, severe/persistent muscle spasms, and epilepsy.

Potential risks

One of the reasons the process involved in acquiring and using medical marijuana is so involved is that while the benefits of medicinal marijuana are varied, it’s not without potential risks. Some of the risks involved with medical marijuana use are pretty straightforward but worth understanding. Despite the relaxing and therapeutic benefits of some aspects of the plant, patients may experience some side effects like breathing issues, red eye, or an increased heart rate.

The Mayo Clinic provides a list of potential side effects including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired concentration and memory
  • Slower reaction times
  • Negative drug-to-drug interactions
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Increased appetite
  • Potential for addiction
  • Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  • Hallucinations or mental illness
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Aside from these potential risks, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a detailed analysis of potential benefits and side effects of using marijuana for medical purposes.

Arizona’s commitment to further research on medical applications

research on medical applications

Arizona is taking sensible precautions and a vested interest in the health of its citizens as it applies to medicinal marijuana. ADHS is contracted with the University of Arizona Center for Toxicology, Pharmacology Education and Research and the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson to create and distribute resources and guidance covering healthy, safe use for patients, doctors and dispensaries in the state. Along with their partnership with Banner Poison & Drug Information Center in Phoenix and up-to-date information about clinical trials, Arizona is deeply committed to researching the medical applications of cannabis and keeping its citizens safe in the process.