Arizona To Begin Accepting Medical Marijuana Dispensary Applications Soon

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Gov. Jan Brewer has directed the Department of Health to begin accepting and processing dispensary licenses

Over a year after voters approved medical marijuana, Arizona Gov Jan Brewer has given up her fight and will allow the medical marijuana dispensary provision to proceed.

Brewer said in an announcement Friday she will direct the state health department to begin accepting and processing medical marijuana dispensary applications once a separate legal challenge over state regulations is settled.

"The State of Arizona will not re-file in federal court a lawsuit that sought clarification that State employees would not be subject to federal criminal prosecution simply for implementing the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA)," the statement read. "Instead, I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a pending legal challenge to the Department's medical marijuana rules is resolved."

Voters approved The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in the 2010 election. That act allows those with certain specified medical conditions to get a recommendation from a doctor that they can legally use marijuana. That recommendation entitles the person to obtain a medical marijuana card from the health department allowing them to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks.

So far the health department has issued over 17,000 medical marijuana patient cards. The law also clearly provides for 125 state-regulated non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries where those with the medical marijuana cards could get their medicine.

Brewer, however, blocked state health officials from even accepting applications after US Attorney Dennis Burke refused to provide assurances that Arizona state workers who process those forms would not be prosecuted under federal laws which make it a crime to facilitate someone else getting marijuana.

"It is well-known that I did not support passage of Proposition 203," Brewer boldly said in the statement.

The governor then filed suit in federal court asking Judge Susan Bolton to rule whether there is immunity for public employees. The lawsuit was then tossed since the court was not in the business of issuing advisory opinions. She also said there was no evidence anyone would be prosecuted, pointing out that no federal prosecutor in any state with a medical marijuana law had brought charges against any public employee for processing paperwork.

Running out of legal solutions, Brewer said implementing the dispensary provision of the law is "the best course of action," and will not go against the will of the voters anymore.

One Last Hurdle

Before the process can begin, the courts need to resolve a suit that was filed in state court by attorneys for Compassion First, a group formed to assist those seeking to open dispensaries. The suit challenges the health department’s rules that restrict who can run a marijuana facility. Those rules include state residency requirements, a prohibition against those with prior bankruptcies and other limits not included in the law voters approved.

When the lawsuit is settled, the state won’t accept medical marijuana dispensary applications until at least September, state health Director Will Humble said. Humble estimated they will issue permits in mid-November.

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