More Medical Marijuana Dispensaries for Arizona
While attention is directed elsewhere, on states like New Hampshire and Illinois that have just legalized medical marijuana, patient access has been quietly advancing across one of the most conservative states to allow it. Medical marijuana dispensaries have been popping up across Arizona in recent months as the state’s medicinal pot law finally settles in. From border towns to the Phoenix suburbs, medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in small communities and big cities alike.
Arizona voters approved proposition 203 in 2010, legalizing medical marijuana in the state by just a few thousand votes. Under the law, a patient with a “debilitating medical condition” may possess up to 2.5 ounces of weed every two weeks by doctor’s recommendation.
The state has limited the total number of medical marijuana dispensaries to 10 percent of the number of pharmacies in the state and began handing out licenses last year. The first dispensary opened in Glendale, outside Phoenix, in December 2012.
The law approved by voters lets patients buy their pot from retail shops regulated by the state or grow it on their own. A number of growers have also hosted unofficial cannabis clubs, where patients pay membership fees and receive “free” medicine once they enter.
Though no one has declared these clubs illegal, several of them have been raided. And it’s not clear whether they’ll last now that full retail dispensaries are in the game.
Most of the pot shops that have opened so far are in or around Phoenix. New shops have recently opened in Tempe, Glendale and Deer Valley. But others are now operating around Tuscon, in Bisbee near the Mexican border and in Sedona, among other locations.
The newest dispensary to open shop is in Payson, a small community surrounded by Tonto National Forest about 80 miles north of Phoenix. Uncle Herbs dispensary was officially in business as of Aug. 3, after three years of planning.
“To us it seems surreal to finally open our doors,” said Tiffany Young of Uncle Herbs. “The intensity of this project has encompassed every moment of your time, resources and talent.”
The road hasn’t been easy for dispensaries. Though the medical marijuana law passed, the margin was narrow, and it doesn’t have the support of many in Arizona.
When the state held a lottery last year to determine who would get the limited number of available licenses, officials set a deadline for applicants: They must obtain their state registration certificates within one year of the drawing or they would lose any chance to reapply for a license at the location they sought.
By the time the deadline approached, only about 70 of 98 lottery winners had succeeded as of July 21. The rest were still caught up in zoning processes, landlord disagreements or other paperwork problems that made it impossible to comply with the deadline.
The tardy applicants were forced to sue the state, and they won. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled on July 29 that the state couldn’t deny the applications based on failure to meet the deadline.
That paves the way for even more dispensaries to open. With about 30 licenses unused, there are still a large number of shops in the planning stages. And Arizona will continue to open the door for medical marijuana patients.