By TJ Green
It's been well over a year since voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), but where is the marijuana? Despite its passage back in 2010, many news sources reported that the AMMA failed in the polls. Nonetheless, Governor Brewer signed the AMMA, and the Department of Health Services (AZDHS) studiously went about crafting a set of rules for administering the AMMA. Specifically, AZDHS set additional hurdles for would-be dispensary owners, such as disqualification for unpaid student loans, and a three year residency requirement. All was well for the fledgling industry. Medical Clinics sprang up overnight. Assemblies of caregivers, doctors, lawyers, patients, growers, lamp salesman, and entrepreneurs ad infinitum convened. Phones began to ring as newly minted business people sought out ad rates, real estate for dispensaries, legal services, and offices.
Without warning, and on the eve of the the first round of dispensary licenses, Governor Brewer ordered Attorney General Tom Horne to file a lawsuit in Federal Court asking a judge to declare whether the federal government would prosecute state employees at AZDHS for administering the AMMA. Several months passed during which potential dispensary owners filed multiple lawsuits in state courts challenging the validity of the additional requirements for dispensary license applicants added by AZDHS.
On January 3rd, a federal judge dismissed Governor Brewer's case, citing a lack of any triable issue. On January 17th, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Richard Gama ruled that the AZDHS's additional requirement for dispensary applicants were beyond the agency's authority under the AMMA. Judge Gama also ordered AZDHS and Governor Brewer to implement the AMMA, including the dispensary program. AZDHS crafted a new set of administrative rules in conformance with Judge Gama's order, and submitted them to Attorney General for a 60 day review period. On February 27th, AZDHS Director Will Humble announced on his blog that AZDHS will accept dispensary applications in April, and will issue the first licenses in June.
Before patients can buy medical marijuana at a dispensary, they must first obtain a physician certification confirming that the patient has a condition that qualifies under the AMMA. Next, patients must submit an application to AZDHS through the online application interface, including the physician certification, a recent photograph, and a scanned copy of their ID. Multiple services have sprung up offering medical marijuana doctor certifications.