The Arizona Department of Health Services announced Wednesday that it will accept applications for medical marijuana dispensaries from May 14 through May 25.
Legal challenges halted the registration process for almost a year, DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley said.
Compassion First LLC filed a lawsuit against the state through the Arizona Superior Court, citing that any DHS employee complying with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act, according to the ruling.
The court decided the act protects both the physicians and the patients from prosecution, and any other ruling would violate the voters’ approval of the act.
“The voters decided to make this happen,” Oxley said. “We’re on our way now to actually fulfilling the voters’ wishes.”
After medical marijuana program was approved in 2010, ADHS constructed a Community Health Analysis Area, which dictates there can be only one dispensary in each of Arizona’s 126 regions.
ADHS will conduct a random drawing to find out if there is more than one qualified applicant for the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Registration Certificate.
The Arizona Superior Court’s ruling also mandated that ADHS remove several criteria for prospective dispensary owners, including one that would have barred anyone who had filed for bankruptcy from receiving a license.
ADHS will announce which dispensary applicants will be awarded licenses on Aug. 7.
Sunny Singh, owner of hydroponic supply store weGrow, said the store limit would keep the state from becoming saturated with dispensaries.
“Last thing we want is dispensaries anywhere and everywhere,” Singh said.
In the year between the law was passed and the dispensary rules were finalized, caregiver collective clubs have been growing marijuana while providing patients with sample amounts in exchange for donations, Singh said.
Because dispensaries weren’t open, “(clubs) were providing the service that wasn’t available to (patients),” Singh said.
With dispensary registration soon to be underway, patients will be able to acquire medical marijuana without having to grow their own or look to the black market, said Alan Proctor, ASU representative for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws .
Proctor also said many people were getting restless with the state for halting the process this long.
“A lot of people weren’t expecting to see dispensaries,” he said. “This shows that Arizona is a progressive state.”
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