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Cancer in the Family

Thank goodness Mr. Smith's grandma has access to medical marijuana should she need it

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It's been a rough couple of weeks in Mr. Smithville. Financial delays and the familiar sting of foraminal spinal stenosis are mounting, and someone very, very close to me got the Bad News.

The news could have been worse. There hasn't been a Take That Last Vacation Now conversation, nor has there been a gathering to discuss final plans. But there is surgery scheduled, and there are appointments to decide, among other things, which type of chemical brew will course through an aged loved one's veins, and whether there will be isotopes involved as well. All in all, it's a very scary thing that sucks in many, many ways.

In the context of chemo and radiation, medical marijuana came up. "Hell, yes, it's an option," was the word from a feisty grandmother. WTF? I know grandmothers are using medical cannabis all across the nation, for all of the same ailments young people use it. But it really hadn't occurred to me that this grandma would even give it a second thought.

Welcome to a Brave New World.

In Arizona, there were roughly 32,000 medical-marijuana cardholders as of Sept. 19, according to the Department of Health Services.

If you look at age alone, there are far fewer patients among older people than the young. About 48 percent of patients are younger than 40, and almost 90 percent are younger than 60. The largest age group, with 21 percent of patients, is 51 to 60. I suspect that's true because there are just more people with ailments in that group than in younger ones. Just more than 1.7 percent (600ish people) are older than 70, and only 95 patients (0.3 percent) are older than 80.

Interestingly, the older age groups have more women as a percentage than younger ones. Overall, just 27 percent of patients are women. But the two youngest age groups (18 to 30 and 31 to 40) are 19 percent and 23 percent women, respectively. The two oldest age groups (71 to 80 and 80-plus) are 34 percent and 49 percent women. So, according to my careful analysis, as women age, they get smarter and start choosing medical marijuana.

A very small percentage—about 3.8 percent—of patients register because of cancer, according to the DHS. The largest group is still chronic pain (90 percent), followed by muscle spasms (13 percent) and nausea (8 percent).

All of which means absolutely nothing.

When a loved one faces immeasurable suffering, measuring really becomes irrelevant. I haven't spent a lot of time this week thinking about numbers or statistics or comparisons or even this column, really. None, in fact, until I looked them up to write this.

Instead, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the driving forces in my life, and mostly about one powerful visionary who sculpted my world view day by day, year by year, hug by hug, smile by smile. She's a good soul, this potential medical-marijuana statistic, so I don't want her to suffer if and when the time comes that doctors see fit to ravage her with good, sound medical intent.

So I'm grateful that, when the possibility of medical cannabis came up with my beloved, feisty and apparently open-minded near-octogenarian, another grandma in the room was quick to pipe up: "I know where you can get some!"

So do I.

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