PHOENIX - State-approved marijuana dispensaries could start opening as soon as this summer, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Gov. Jan Brewer ordered the department to start revising the application rules for dispensaries after she decided not to appeal the outcome of two lawsuits the state was involved in dealing with the new medical marijuana law.
The state started issuing medical marijuana cards to individuals and allowing individuals to grow marijuana for their own medical uses in April, but held off on issuing permits for dispensaries because Brewer wanted to make sure the federal government would not come after state employees who issue the permits. Brewer ended up suing the federal government in U.S. District court in an attempt to get a response. The case was dismissed on Jan. 4.
At the same time, several organizations wanting to open medical marijuana dispensaries sued the state and Brewer in Maricopa County Superior Court, claiming that the requirements to get a dispensary permit were too restrictive and that Brewer did not have the authority to delay the permitting process.
A Maricopa County judge overturned some of the restrictions last week, including requirements that dispensary applicants be residents of the state for at least three years, never filed for personal or corporate bankruptcy, submit their tax returns for the last three years, and be current on any tax payments, child support payments, court judgments and student loans.
According to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble's blog, the department goal is to start taking applications in April, review them for 45 days and have all 125 dispensary licenses issued by mid-June.
According to statistics from the Department of Health Services, more than 17,900 applications for medical marijuana patient cards have been received from across the state and 99 percent of those applications were approved.
In Mohave County, 867 residents have applied for the cards, including: four in the Littlefield in the northern part of the county, 41 in Dolan Springs; two in Hualapai; 335 in the Kingman area, which includes Golden Valley; 191 in Bullhead City; 34 in Fort Mohave; and 260 in Lake Havasu City.
In comparison, Prescott has 288 cardholders, Scottsdale has 458, Deer Valley has 576 and Paradise Valley Village has 674.
About 80 percent of the people filing for marijuana cards in the state are requesting to grow their own medicine. The majority of applicants are also male (74 percent) and between the ages of 18 to 30 years old (23.7 percent) or between the ages of 51 and 60 (23.2 percent). The most common medical conditions listed for card applicants are chronic pain (87 percent) and muscle spasms (14 percent), although an applicant can list more than one condition.
The law allows someone with a medical marijuana card to obtain no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks to treat chronic or debilitating diseases.