No Medicine

A Tucson man finds himself in the hospital unable to take the MMJ he needs

When James Ball went to St. Mary's Hospital he assumed he would be able to consume some medical marijuana edibles he had with him to help control the pain.

He has a medical marijuana patient card, issued by the state, so he figured it wouldn't be a problem. However, he was told the only thing he could take for pain would be what they'd prescribe, and he didn't want to take pain killers.

Ball told the Weekly he felt it was discriminatory, especially because medical marijuana had been prescribed to him by a doctor and it's regulated by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Ball's history with prescription medications is an issue, too. So over the years he's stopped taking them, and realized marijuana was the best way to treat his pain.

He found himself at St. Mary's recently because his pain was growing worse from a spinal cord issue that caused swelling and irritated his spinal column. Besides pain, he couldn't move from the neck down.

He found himself in and out of the hospital. He thought he'd bring edibles and he happened to mention it to the nurse when they wanted to have him take pain medications, specifically percoset after a surgery and then morphine.

"I was told it goes against policy," he said. "I wanted to talk to someone higher up, but couldn't."

One night, when he was in a deep sleep and they had difficulty waking him, they took him to ICU when they thought he may have taken marijuana against their wishes. Ball said he didn't. He just hadn't slept for two days because of the insomnia and pain, so his need for sleep finally caught up with him.

"It was a high-stress situation," he said.

"I was told since the hospital is a tobacco-free zone, like cigarettes I wouldn't be able to use marijuana."

Ball said he looked at his discharge papers to see if they ever tested him for THC, but there was no evidence.

"The papers said they suspected someone brought me some in food," he said.

Early last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to allow medical marijuana use in about 20 hospitals throughout the state. Ball said a change in policy is needed in Arizona, too.

"Again, if this is prescribed by a doctor and supported by our state health officials," he said, then why can't it be used in our hospitals."

This is part one of James Ball's story on medical marijuana. Next week, we talk to three Tucson hospitals on their policy treating MMJ patients and not allowing marijuana, edible or otherwise, on hospital grounds.

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