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September 10, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Medical Marijuana for Children

  |   Video
  • Arizona Horizon will revisit the issue of medical marijuana for children from the viewpoint of a doctor. Dr. Richard Strand, a Phoenix doctor, will talk about the issue.
  • Dr. Richard Strand - Doctor, Phoenix
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: children, medical marijuana,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Last week on "Arizona Horizon," a state lawmaker and a medical marijuana advocate debated the issue of using medical marijuana to treat children. Tonight we get a local doctor's perspective. Richard Strand, a Phoenix physician, joins us now to talk about the efficacy and the wisdom of treating children with medical marijuana. Doctor, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Richard Strand: Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: This deals with a 5-year-old boy in Mesa, he's got cortical dysplasia, that sounds like I know what I'm talking about, but I really don't. It sounds like terrible seizures, he's got some autism as well, they've tried to use drug after drug, cocktails this, cocktails that. Nothing seems to be working. He's been approved for medical marijuana. Does it concern you as a doctor that a 5-year-old will be given medical marijuana?

Richard Strand: I think the answer to that has to be taken into context of his whole medical treatment. This isn't what I would consider as his first treatment. He should see the pediatrician and the neurologist, have the full work-up. Try the anti-- The drugs for the treatment of seizures to see if they work. But unfortunately, and about 40% of children with seizures, they're not effective treatment. Plus they have some pretty significant side effects. This patient, as well as several others that have been covered recently on CNN, on the weed show about a month ago with Sanjay Gupta, there's quite a few kids out there now that are being treated. Surely there's over 40 in Colorado, so they're probably in the hundreds now. The treatments are showing to be effective. They're not the front line treatment, but for people that are at the end of their rope, that have tried all effective medical treatments without good results, I think it's good they have that alternative.

Ted Simons: And we hear medical marijuana is effective against nausea, pain, seizures, some are saying early-onset dementia. Is that accurate? Is that what we're seeing and hearing out there?

Richard Strand: I think for the general physician community, the feeling is that for some people in some conditions, medical marijuana really is the best thing to treat them. The problem with medical marijuana in the United States is that it's a schedule one drug. The DEA, the Department of Justice, has declared this as a substance with no medical use, and highly dangerous. Marijuana is neither of those two. It does not belong on schedule one, but being it's on schedule one, that means effective research in the United States is completely stymied.

Ted Simons: So basically -- Because we have critics who say the FDA hasn't approved, the American Academy of Pediatrics are suggesting don't give medical marijuana to children. There are other groups and other studies suggesting the younger the child that gets the medical marijuana, the more the chance or the risk of problems later in life, especially psychiatric problems, addictive problems. How much weight does that carry?

Richard Strand: Well, I think the thing is again, you have to look at the context of an individual patient. And not speaking to our case in Arizona, but just in general. If somebody is having 300 seizures a week, and they're not receiving any benefit from conventional treatment and they've seen experts in the field, it makes sense to me to try. If something works and it seems in this case medical marijuana is working, it's well worth any risk.

Ted Simons: But without the research, and we had Representative John Kavanagh who has been very much against medical marijuana in general, in particular to children, we had him on last week and had quite a response from his experience, he says no one knows without the research if it does work, and he says you can't flip a coin on something like this and guess. Here's what the representative had to say.

John Kavanagh: The United States has the safest prescription and nonprescription drug program in the world, because we don't allow snake oil to be peddled. Before a drug can be given to the public, studies have to be shown that convinces the FDA, research doctors, statisticians, pharmacologists, that it's safe and it’s effective. Marijuana has not passed the hurdles for any condition whatsoever.

Ted Simons: Do we know enough of how marijuana affects small children?

Richard Strand: I think the answer to that question is no. We need research. But I will point out that in the United States, it's very, very difficult to perform research such as what Representative Kavanagh is discussing because NIDA, which is a branch of the NIH, will not fund or approve any research designed to show the effectiveness of medical marijuana. They will only fund programs to show the harm. Therefore, a study that's been approved for a doctor at the University of Arizona, approved by the FDA and the legislature of Arizona changed the law so they can have research done on Arizona college campuses, she cannot get approval from NIDA to do the study. The FDA says yes, this is exactly the kind of study that we need. This case doesn't involve children, but it does involve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We've got 20 veterans a day committing suicide, and we can't get an approval for a study for something that might help them.

Ted Simons: Why can’t we get it? The National Institutes of Health -- We're talking groups that are there to help us in terms of health matters. And this is something that might -- Come on, what's going on here?

Richard Strand: What's going on is politics, number one. Strong emotions, a lot of lack of scientific knowledge. Some of these people and what they say, they might as well be members of the flat earth society. And I think for some people that aren't really involved with this subject, if they hear falsehoods enough times, they're going to believe it. That medical marijuana has been a whipping boy almost since the prohibition of alcohol back in the 30's. There's a long history of people with vested interests that are not interested in medical marijuana, or research being done upon it.

Ted Simons: And you're saying the research isn't even done -- Some of this research might prove it is harmful. It is something that shouldn't be given to kids or shouldn't be given to adults who have addictive -- You don't even know that, you can't even prove it's harmful.

Richard Strand: That's right. I think the answer for good science, you have to be able to live with results. You're not going to presuppose the result in the beginning. If the result shows harm, good. You learned. If it shows benefit, good. Let's look at it some more. That research is not going on in the United States. Fortunately countries like Israel, Canada, Spain, are doing research, so we are getting research, but just not here.

Ted Simons: I've heard a criticism that big pharma is against medical marijuana because it can't be patented and they accident find a way to make money off it and it might take money from their products. Is that a valid criticism?

Richard Strand: I think so. Big pharma obviously this would be competing against some of their other medications, they do have patents upon, so it makes sense to me that why am I going to support a competitor? And I think that also is true for the whole antidrug establishment. The DEA itself, NIDA, private prisons, police guard unions, politicians that get elected on this. There's a whole big complex of people that would not benefit by having medical marijuana used more or researched or legal.

Ted Simons: Last question, it sounds like from research we've got at least 40 medical marijuana patients in Arizona that are under the able of 18. As a doctor, does that concern you?

Richard Strand: It would depend again on the individual case. You really can't say more than that. But I will say that your point that it does seem that people under the age of 16 or 18, before the brain is fully developed, do have some increased risks of future adverse developments, psychologically and so forth. But those people would normally be people we talked about in the recreational use category. Surely, teens should not be using marijuana. But if they have a medical condition that hasn't been effectively treated by conventional treatment, yes.

Ted Simons: Doctor, it's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Richard Strand: Thank you.

Record Rainfall

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  • Near-record rainfall has hit Arizona because of Tropical Storm Lorena. Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny will discuss the rainfall and the storm.
  • Randy Cerveny - Climatologist, Arizona State University
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: rainfall, arizona, storm,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Recent rains in the valley and around the state have reinforced what's turned out to be a pretty good summer rainy season. Here to tell us what's going on is ASU climatologist and president's professor Randy Cerveny. Good to have you here.

Randy Cerveny: Thanks.

Ted Simons: What is going on out there? There's some crazy stuff here the past few days.

Randy Cerveny: It's the typical monsoon winds, circulation. But it's on steroids, because it was able to pick up all that moisture from the dying tropical storm that was down off the coast of Mexico. As all that moisture was pumped up the Gulf of California, it basically really, really just dumped right on to Arizona.

Ted Simons: Is that unusual for Arizona? Is that unusual for this time of year?

Randy Cerveny: Actually this is the perfect time that we have these kind of things, because the monsoon never really sharply ends. It slowly dwindles away, and as it does, there's a tendency for these dying tropical storms that are off Mexico to work their way up into near Arizona. We never get a tropical storm up here, but we get the moisture, and we can have these rains in September and October.

Ted Simons: So the storm sees a vacuum, moves up because the monsoon is easing off a little bit.

Randy Cerveny: Right. Actually, the reason it comes up into Arizona is it's kind of like a giant pump. When we have high pressure over in the Great Plains, it circulates around in a clockwise manner, so the airflow comes over Mexico, pushes the moisture up into Arizona. So when you have really hot, dry conditions like they've had in the Great Plains this year, that kind of pumps the moisture up into Arizona.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about that. It seems to me that this has been an above average monsoon. Has it been above average?

Randy Cerveny: It is slightly above average right now. In terms of the Phoenix metropolitan area, we have more rain than what we've had for several past monsoon seasons.

Ted Simons: And that's because --

Randy Cerveny: Because primarily we've had a moisture source. We've had this flow of moisture, the typical monsoon we get this moisture coming up from the Gulf of California, from the Pacific Ocean. But this year it's been very, very consistent. It's day after day of this pumping action.

Ted Simons: Is that because that high you were talking about is parked a little east of us?

Randy Cerveny: Yeah. And it basically is set over Texas and baked Texas all summer.

Ted Simons: And they're having problems there with drought, they're having problems with not enough rainfall. So when it's parked over us, they get the rainfall?

Randy Cerveny: Yep. Our monsoon moisture usually will arc up along the Colorado River and then go up into Utah. This year it hasn't.

Ted Simons: That's interesting. So if we have a good monsoon, they're hurting in the Plains. If we have a not so good monsoon, they're getting a lot of rain in the plains.

Randy Cerveny: That's right. People don't realize, but when you get one weather occurring in one part of the country, it usually means the exact opposite in another part of the country.

Ted Simons: Was there any way back in April or May to forecast we would have an average to above average monsoon? Any way at all?

Randy Cerveny: I wish I could say there was, but no. We frankly, the monsoon is such an odd phenomenon, and we've only been studying it for the last 10, 15 years, we really don't yet have a good feeling for what causes it well in advance of when it actually starts.

Ted Simons: So now we've got the monsoon, and it's slowly ending, it seems to me, it seems like in September maybe not so many storms, but the storms we get can be real lulus. Is that accurate?

Randy Cerveny: That is accurate. The reason again has to do with these tropical storms. Even though they don't come all the way up into Arizona, the moisture, when they’re dying down by Mexico, does get pumped up into Arizona, and so in September and October we will not have as many storms as the monsoon time, but when they do they really dump a lot of water.

Ted Simons: It's also my impression once the monsoon ends, statistically you have it the end of September, usually mid- to late September, we go through an extended dry period, similar to what we see maybe in the spring before we get -- The temperatures aren't the same, but the dryness level seems to be the same. Is that accurate?

Randy Cerveny: We'll lose the moisture. In the atmosphere. Because our storms switch from being powered by moisture in the air, to being powered by things like cold fronts coming from California. So we'll lose that moisture and that means we'll start to have really nice cool, crisp mornings, and we'll get away from that monsoonal humidity that we're all used to in the summertime.

Ted Simons: But it's not quite as dry for quite as long as we see in the spring?

Randy Cerveny: Right.

Ted Simons: So that's when it really bakes.

Randy Cerveny: Yes. Because that's part -- What causes the monsoon in the first place is the baking in the spring.

Ted Simons: OK. So on we go to winter, we've got a La Niña, El Niño, can we figure out what's going to happen this winter?

Randy Cerveny: Right now what they are basically saying is that we're going to be tending towards dryer conditions here in the southwest. Most of the storms that we're going to have, and it's a fairly typical situation, will get shuttled up towards the Northwest part of the United States. Up into Oregon and Washington. And we'll get a few of those, but nowhere like the El Niño kind of seasons that we've seen occasionally in years past.

Ted Simons: So tipping toward La Niña.

Randy Cerveny: It's going to be tipping toward a dryer season.

Ted Simons: Everything we've talked about, from above average monsoon to the plains, to September, to whatever, global warming and climate change. Any factor whatsoever?

Randy Cerveny: Well, one of the things that we have figured out is that the big high pressure systems like we've seen setting over Texas and the southern part of the country, particularly over the last few weeks, those will become more prevalent. But as they set there, they also tend to pull moisture up and circle it around. So that interestingly, one of the things we found with global warming is that for the world as a whole, which will become a wetter place, we're still going to have droughts, but there's going to be more chances for big flooding events under a global warming world than under a non-global warming world.

Ted Simons: From an Arizona perspective, if a global warming world means that high pressure system moves over Texas and God bless them, they don't get anything going, they got their own concerns, we wind up getting good summer rains.

Randy Cerveny: Yeah. Because the critical thing to us is being able to force that air from Mexico up into Arizona. And when you have something over in Texas that can circle that air up into Mexico and us, that's what you need to have.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, we're talking about the monsoon, the importance of the monsoon pales in comparison to the winter rainy season and the snow cap.

Randy Cerveny: For things like the Colorado River, and for the watersheds in the Salt and Verde, the winter time snows are the critical thing. You want that water slowly get into the reservoirs as opposed to just rushing in and rushing out.

Ted Simons: All right. Randy, good stuff, good to have you here.

Randy Cerveny: Thanks. My pleasure.

Water Management Research for Cotton Farmers

  |   Video
  • Researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona are working on a study to understand farmers’ perspectives on water management and how water policies affect their operations. ASU Associate Professor Hallie Eakin, who is working on the research, will talk about the study.
  • Hallie Eakin - Associate Professor, Arizona State University
Keywords: research, study, water management, around arizona,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona are studying the water management challenges facing the state's cotton farmers. For more on the study, we welcome Hallie Eakin, a professor at ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability. Good to have you here. Let's -- I know it says agriculture in general, but it seems like it's cotton focused. What is the state of the cotton industry in Arizona, especially when it comes to water management?

Hallie Eakin: Well, it's interesting. The last decade has been fairly dynamic for the sector in general. We've seen an economic recession here in central Arizona, central Arizona is one of the prime cotton-producing areas in the state. And the state is actually a really apt region for producing cotton. And economic recession has actually provided some opportunities. And coincided with relatively high commodity prices. So this has allowed farmers who might have gone out of business when housing prices were up and land demand was high, have stayed in business and leased land back from developers.

Ted Simons: It's interesting that the urban encroachments, land prices, we all have seen the cotton fields plowed under and the condos and houses put up. How much of a factor as far as the industry is concerned?

Hallie Eakin: I think that has had a major role since the 1980s. And one of the things we're really interested in is what have been the expectations about the sector and how much that has played out. We have seen definitely a decline in area farmed around Maricopa County, Pinal County, but recently the other issues have come up in terms of commodity prices really being something that has been favorable for farmers and the fact that development has slowed and there's a change in the way we are thinking about urban growth and urban expansion here.

Ted Simons: There's a perception that cotton uses lot of water. Is that true?

Hallie Eakin: Well, depends on what -- Relative to what. Yes, cotton is a water consumptive crop. Compared to some other alternatives, but also we have to think about the conditions in which cotton is grown here. And it's not only a crop that can survive in relatively salinated soils and with water quality that's also fairly high in mineral content and salts which vegetables, for example, may not do as well. So thinking about why cotton here, whether it's apt for desert, it actually does really well in the desert. Farmers don't want to be farming where there's a lot of rain.

Ted Simons: I found that very interesting as far as the study is concerned in that direct rainfall, you don't get enough direct rainfall, that's not that big of a worry according to the study that I read. Here. But boy, the Colorado River, Colorado basin, that's where it is a big factor.

Hallie Eakin: Exactly. Part of our study has been looking at what really are the things that worry farmers in terms of the viability of their production. One we often think agriculture is sensitive to drought, for example, local drought conditions. While we've had pretty severe drought conditions in the state over the last decade, farmers locally, the irrigated producers haven't been affected by lack of rainfall here. They are affected, however, by flows in the Colorado River because a lot of their water comes from the Central Arizona Product.

Ted Simons: So with all this information at hand here, what are you finding out here, how can water be better utilized for the cotton industry, what are the farmers' concerns and how are -- How can they can addressed?

Hallie Eakin: One of the things we're focusing on is the role of agriculture since the 1980s in water management for the state. That agriculture has played a key role in storing groundwater for future urban growth. In that there's been some incentives put in place so that the AG sector doesn't use the groundwater to which it has rights and instead uses surface water flows to keep that groundwater from being overexploited and being available for urban growth.

Ted Simons: And this is groundwater that exists primarily because of the cotton fields, or they help --

Hallie Eakin: The aquifer has always been there. But it is true that, and this is something we often don't recognize, that agriculture in using water, is actually replenishing. Some of that water is going back into the groundwater. So if that water is transferred to the urban sector, and we get housing development, the use of that water is going to change. It isn't necessarily going to have that same function in terms of returning to groundwater or helping replenish the aquifer.

Ted Simons: Back to the study and back to talking to farmers. What are they saying? What are their major concerns?

Hallie Eakin: One of the things that has emerged is that they are definitely -- They're not concerned necessarily about local drought, they are concerned about the viability and accessibility of water in the future. And that primarily coming from the Colorado River, whether projections about declining flows are going to affect the availability and the cost of that water. And that also has to do with electricity prices. Because not only does it -- Is the large part of cap water cost having to do with electricity price or pumping that water into the central Arizona, but also groundwater. If they turn back to use groundwater, that cost is also dependent on our hydrological resources.

Ted Simons: Does your research show that policymakers, urban planners, along with the farmers, all have something at stake here? Are you hearing -- Is everyone simpatico, or are they going in different directions?

Hallie Eakin: This may be an opportunity for the region as a whole to think about the future differently. We've tended to think of these sectors as kind of noncompatible, competitive, urban or rural. Urban or AG. But there may be actual synergies that we can be thinking of in terms of the different ways that agriculture can play in the future as Phoenix decides what kind of urban footprint we're really thinking about.

Ted Simons: And I was going to say, cotton is important to the state's footprint, is it not? It's one of the big Cs.

Hallie Eakin: It's incredibly important. It provides a significant economic contribution to the state, but it's also I think in terms of identity. We don't really think about that, but this is the history and the culture and the identity here.

Ted Simons: Pima cotton.

Hallie Eakin: Exactly. One of the five Cs.

Ted Simons: Hey, interesting stuff. It's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Hallie Eakin: Thanks so much.