December 22, 2010

Arizona Starts Groundwork on MMJ Implementation

December 22, 2010
Green Arizona

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has produced a first draft of regulations pertaining to the state’s Medical Marijuana Act and is now looking for public input.

The 47-page regulations document was unveiled Dec. 17 and is available for viewing at the ADHS website, along with frequently asked questions, important dates and the latest news from the Director’s Blog pertaining to the Medical Marijuana Act. In addition, the site allows for public input regarding the regulations and the ability to subscribe to receive updates of the Director’s Blog to your e-mail account.

According to ADHS Director Will Humble, the department expects to have plenty of comments from the people who intend to apply for a dispensary license or become a qualified patient, caregiver, dispensary agent or provide medical marijuana recommendations, but they believe it’s more challenging to get input from residents who will have no direct interest in the industry, but still want the law to be implemented in an effective way that minimizes abuse.

According to Humble, the provisions of the Medical Marijuana Act limit ADHS’ ability to regulate in many ways. For example, the act gives ADHS broad authority to regulate dispensaries, but little authority to regulate caregivers or employer-employee relations.

Highlights of the informal draft rules include requirements for patients, caregivers and dispensary regulations. For example, the rules would require qualified patients to have an ongoing relationship with a physician in order to obtain a medical marijuana card. A qualified physician could include a medical doctor, osteopath, naturopath or homeopath who diagnoses the patient with certain conditions. According to the rules, the physician will need to have seen the patient at least four times in one year or is beginning a course of treatment and will continue to treat the patient.

If a patient qualifies for the medical marijuana treatment, there is a cost to the patient of $150 annually and designated caregivers pay $200 annually for identification cards.

The rules also state that qualified patients cannot smoke medical marijuana in a public place, but patients will be able to consume marijuana-infused edibles in public. Dispensaries will be allowed to sell edibles that could be in the form of candy or brownies, but they must be produced in a licensed establishment.

The list of diseases that could qualify a patient for medical marijuana include cancer; glaucoma; human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Hepatitis C; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease); Crohn’s disease; or a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes Cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe or persistent muscle spasms. Although this is the current list, in January or July of each calendar year, the ADHS would accept written requests to add a medical condition to the list of the debilitating medical conditions.

Regarding dispensaries, the draft rules provide a long list of requirements for the facilities and state that once approved by the ADHS to open a dispensary, the owner will have to pay a $5,000 registration fee, a $1,000 renewal fee each year, and $2,500 if there is a change to the location of a dispensary or grow facility.

To be considered by the ADHS to open a dispensary in the state, an applicant must have been an Arizona resident for at least two consecutive years and pass a background check.

The rules also state that all licensed dispensaries in Arizona will be required to grow 70 percent of the marijuana sold. That can be grown at the dispensary or at a cultivation site. The rest must come from either qualified patients, caregivers or other licensed dispensaries.

If you aren’t able to comment on this informal draft rule between now and Jan. 7, there will be additional time to comment in February and March. Governor Jan Brewer signed the proclamation that makes Proposition 203 law on Dec. 14, so the 120-day implementation period will end on April 13.


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