Despite a letter of warning from the U.S. Attorney’s Office last February, Arizona is working behind the scenes to grant licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries by August.
Voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, Proposition 203, in 2010. The Arizona Department of Health Services has been working ever since to create what it considers the only true medical marijuana program, according to its website.
“The people who wrote the law learned from other states where they already passed the initiative,” said DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley. “Once it passed, our director has made sure that it’s run as a medical marijuana program as much as possible.”
The state will grant licenses to dispensaries starting in two months, but they won’t go up right away as more paperwork will be necessary, Oxley said.
Despite a lack of legal dispensaries, marijuana cards have been issued to thousands of Arizonans. This leaves cardholders to either go underground or receive marijuana from “makeshift collectives,” a spokesman for Green Door Physicians said.
The state will limit the number of dispensaries to prevent duplicating California’s medical marijuana system.
Gov. Jan Brewer was unable to receive a specific answer as to whether the U.S. attorney’s threat of legal action against state employees would actually happen.
According to Oxley, roughly eight specific conditions and five symptoms will qualify for a card but not without the approval of a doctor. These conditions are outlined on the DHS website.
The symptoms do not have to be caused by one of the specified conditions, but having a symptom such as difficulty gaining weight or post-traumatic stress disorder could be enough for a doctor to grant a prescription.
DHS has recommended that doctors read “Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy.” The book does not say marijuana has no medical value, nor is it proven to be very harmful.
Despite the workings of the state toward licensing dispensaries, there is no telling specifically when the doors will open. It is clear, however, that state officials are working to make this a medical program and not a step toward legalization.
“I don’t think it will ever be legal,” said a dispensary operator with Platinum OCC in California, “it will be a regulated thing.”
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Author: Patrick O'Malley
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