Medical marijuana university comes to Arizona

The first and only state-approved medical marijuana institution for higher education is coming to Arizona.

Gus Escamilla, CEO and founder of Greenway University, has already established a campus in Denver and plans to open a second one in Phoenix.

The passing of Arizona’s medical marijuana initiative in November opened up new business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

By: Blake Wilson

“Greenway University is providing education while helping grow a new American industry,” Escamilla said.

The medical marijuana business is a $14 billion industry in California, and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has projected that the new industry could bring Arizona $40 million in annual revenue.

Courses at the university’s campus in Colorado teach students skills that range from cultivation of the plant to understanding the state law.

“This industry desperately needs professionals,” Escamilla said.

Adapting and adjusting to change is vital to success in this industry because it is rapidly evolving, he said.

A person who wishes to open a dispensary in Arizona must complete their zoning and site requirements before applying for a license. Whether a person can both cultivate and dispense at the same location depends on the regulations of the city. However, the Department of Health Services would like to prevent both activities at the same location.

Only 124 licenses will be disbursed throughout the entire state of Arizona, based on the provisions of the law. The license gives a person the ability to both grow and dispense medical marijuana.

The second formal draft on how to govern medical marijuana dispensaries was proposed on Jan. 31 by the DHS. The draft should be finalized in March. The government will tax dispensary owners at 300 percent.

Those who apply for a license will be chosen one of three ways: lottery style, first-come first-serve and most qualified. The most qualified applicants will likely be chosen.

“It’s going to be a competitive process,” said Ryan Hurley, an attorney for real estate and business law firm Rose Law Group, pc.

A two-day promotional event for Greenway University was held on Saturday and Sunday in Scottsdale to showcase the business aspects of the medical marijuana industry. The tuition for the two-day course was $295.

The event covered the legality of the industry, how to open a dispensary and the business risks associated with it. A panel of medical marijuana experts and attorneys was also present at the event.

Several attendees were concerned about the high financial risk as well as the unstable mandates currently in effect.

Others who attended the event were merely there for support and personal interest.

“I’m relocating to Arizona because of the new medical marijuana laws,” said political activist James Lake.

Lake is a member of the U.S. Marijuana Party of Wyoming and wants to start a political organization in Arizona. He was involved in a motorcycle accident going 50 miles per hour in 1997, resulting in his leg being crushed. He is currently a medical marijuana patient.

“Nobody can dispute the medical benefits of marijuana,” Lake said.

Reach the reporter at cstarboa@asu.edu