Medical marijuana rules on use, sales released by state

KINGMAN - The Arizona Department of Health Services released the final copy of the rules governing the use and sale of medical marijuana within the state Monday and plans to start taking applications for qualified patients starting April 14.

According to the department, in order to qualify for a medical marijuana patient registry identification card, a patient must be diagnosed by a doctor with one of several debilitating medical conditions or a chronic disease that causes symptoms approved for treatment by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Those conditions include: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS,

Hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, wasting syndrome, sever and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, and severe or persistent muscle spasms. Patients can petition the department in writing to add other diseases and symptoms to the list in January and July of each year.

The department does not provide a list of doctors who are willing to write a medical marijuana certification for a patient. However, the doctor who writes the certification for a patient does not have to be the patient's primary physician, nor is a doctor required by state law to write marijuana certificates for patients.

Physicians writing marijuana certifications must have a valid Arizona license to practice medicine, must confirm the diagnosis of a qualifying condition, establish a medical record for the patient, conduct a in-person physical within the last 90 days, review the last year of medical records from the patient, explain the potential risks of using marijuana, attest in writing that the patient is likely to receive a benefit from using the drug and fill out a one-page form to be turned into ADHS. The department will only accept the ADHS form.

In order to apply for a medical marijuana patient registry card, a patient must fill out an online application at www.azdhs.gov, see a doctor for diagnosis and turn in the ADHS's physician certification form. According to the department, everything must be submitted through its online process, the department will not take applications that are mailed or dropped off at its offices. It will cost a patient $150 to receive or renew a medical marijuana card. Lost cards must be reported to the department and can be replaced for $10. Patients who are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, can have the price reduced to $75.

Patients are allowed to have up to two-and-a-half ounces of usable marijuana in their possession. They may purchase up to two and a half ounces from a dispensary every 14 days. They may also apply to the department cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants at their home in an enclosed, locked facility if they are more than 25 miles away from a dispensary. A patient has to indicate on their application that they want to grow marijuana before they can start growing it.

Grow your own

The department has acknowledged that marijuana dispensaries will not be open when the first patient cards are released. Therefore, all patients applying for the first issue of cards will be approved to grow their own supply if they ask. That designation may change when the patient renews their card if a dispensary has opened within 25 miles of their home. The department will not inspect home cultivation sites.

Visitors from other states can also possess and use medical marijuana if they have valid medical marijuana cards from their home state. They may also purchase marijuana from Arizona dispensaries if they can show proof of Arizona residency through an Arizona driver's license or identification card and obtain a written certification from an Arizona physician.

The rules also state that patients cannot consume or smoke marijuana in public areas, while driving or operating a motor vehicle, and that private property owners and employers are not required to allow patient to smoke or eat products containing marijuana on their property. It also states that nursing homes and other assisted care facilities may place storage and use restrictions on patients. However, employers, landlords and schools cannot refuse to hire, rent to or enroll a patient just because they use medical marijuana. Employers are also not allowed to fire a patient because they test positive for marijuana. But an employer can take action against an employee who possesses, uses or appears to be under the influence of the drug while at the job site or during work hours.

Dispensaries

ADHS will accept applications for dispensaries in June. People wanting to open a dispensary must be over the age of 21 and a resident of Arizona for more than three consecutive years prior to the date of the application. Each principal officer or board member of a dispensary must submit their fingerprints and pass a background check. They must also submit information on whether they have been delinquent in paying taxes, child support or student loans, filed for bankruptcy and have access to $150,000 in startup costs. A delinquency on taxes, student loans, child support or past bankruptcy doesn't disqualify a person from getting a certificate, however, the information will be used to determine the best qualified applicants if more than one person applies for a certificate in a certain area, according to the department.

Only one dispensary will be allowed in the 126-community health analysis areas set up by the department. If more than one person applies for a dispensary certificate, the department will determine who gets the permit based on a evaluative process, that has not been defined. A person can only apply for one dispensary certificate per area, but may apply for up to five certificates throughout the state.

The cost to apply for a dispensary registration certificate is $5,000. The department will refund $1,000 of the cost back to a person if their dispensary application is not approved. The department will release who will receive a dispensary registration certificate in August. The cost to renew a certificate is $1,000 and to change the location of a dispensary is $2,500.

However, if a person withdraws their application or does not submit a complete application, the department will not refund the price of the application. The department will notify a person if their dispensary application is not completely filled out. The person then has 10 days to submit the missing items. The dispensary certificates are non-transferable.

In order to open a dispensary, a person must meet all local zoning requirements and apply for approval to operate the dispensary with ADHS at least 60 days before the expiration of their dispensary registration certificate. If they fail to do so they may be permanently disqualified from applying again.

Dispensaries do not have to cultivate their own supply. According to the rules, a dispensary can get its stock from another registered dispensary or from a registered patient or caregiver, as long as the patient or caregiver is not compensated for the drug. There is no limit on how much marijuana a dispensary can grow and they may grow it in another location from the dispensary. However, dispensaries may want to contact an attorney about federal marijuana laws. The law does not allow for cultivation only businesses.

In order to prevent unauthorized use of the drug, dispensaries will have to keep track of inventory and patient information as well as implement security features, such as electronic monitoring, restricted access and intrusion procedures, all of which must be provided to ADHS.

Dispensaries must also be open at least 30 hours a week and must meet all local laws governing the cooking and selling of food products, if they sell food with marijuana in it.

They must also have a medical director who is a licensed Arizona physician on staff to answer questions and distribute information. Medical directors are not allowed to issue medical marijuana certificates to patients.

Dispensaries can also transport marijuana to other dispensaries and patients, but must follow certain rules. The vehicle used must not have anything on it identifying it with medical marijuana and no visible marijuana. A dispensary agent will have to file a trip plan, carry a copy of the plan and have a means of communicating with the dispensary. After completing the trip the agent must enter in the time it took to make the trip and any deviations from the plan.

For more information on the new rules, fees and application forms, visit www.azdhs.gov /prop203.