Medical Marijuana

Potential operators of medical marijuana dispensaries have revived their plans to open East Valley locations now that a lawsuit to block the drug's medical use has been dismissed.

People who want to open dispensaries have been checking with cities to make sure they can move quickly if they are issued licenses by Arizona this summer. They're asking if they can transfer approved locations to other people or they are seeking reassurance previously issued city approvals are still valid, said Ryan Levesque, a senior planner in Tempe.

"Calls have been picking up the past few weeks," Levesque said.

Tempe had more interest than any East Valley city last year when municipalities began sifting through applications for dispensary locations.

Mesa has also seen renewed interest, while Gilbert's had a single inquiry. Chandler hasn't had any new interest, and a city official said it's unlikely a dispensary will find a place to open in that community despite the state's medical marijuana program going forward.

The would-be dispensary owners flooded cities last year with applications, totaling more than 80 in the East Valley. Tempe was overwhelmed with about 50 applications, while Mesa fielded 35. Chandler and Gilbert had only a few applications per city.

The processing came to a halt last year when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer filed a lawsuit to block the Arizona Department of Health Services from accepting dispensary applications. Last month, a federal judge threw out the suit and a Maricopa County court ordered the Department of Health Services to take applications.

Despite the length of the delay, East Valley cities said no applicants have withdrawn so far.

Some potential operators got frustrated by the lawsuit and gave up, said Dr. Bruce Bedrick of Kind Clinics, a Valley-based consultant who helps applicants qualify and sells turnkey equipment to dispensaries. He said he's had no problem finding clients after the lawsuit was resolved.

"We're over 60 now but it's probably going to be over 70 when it's all said and done," Bedrick said.

But the East Valley will only have a fraction of the more than 80 proposed dispensaries.

Arizona's medical marijuana program allows just one dispensary in each of the state's Community Health Analysis Areas, which are geographic areas the state uses to monitor public health data.

Arizona has 126 of these areas, and the East Valley has about a dozen. There are two each in Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe, and five in Mesa.

Tempe approved dispensaries at 16 sites that meet its land-use regulations, before the lawsuit halted action.

"We're still honoring those approvals we granted from last year," Levesque said. "Basically, we gave them an indefinite hold."

The state will use a lottery to determine who will get the two licenses allocated to Tempe. After that, Levesque said the only remaining hurdle for those operators will be passing building permit inspections.

Mesa has 26 locations where applicants have met requirements, with stronger concentrations on its west side. Gilbert has had a single inquiry since the lawsuit was resolved, said Mike Milillo, zoning administrator.

Each city has its own rules on where dispensaries can locate, requiring various distances from schools, churches, residential areas and other dispensaries.

Those regulations could keep a dispensary from opening in Chandler, said Jodie Novak, a senior city planner.

The city has only a few areas open to dispensaries. They include shopping centers near 54th Street and Ray Road, around Germann and Gilbert roads and part of Chandler Fashion Center. But those landowners won't lease to dispensaries, Novak said.

One hopeful dispensary operator sought an exception to city rules last year when applying for a spot near Chandler Regional Hospital, but the City Council rejected the proposal. That dampened interest in Chandler, Novak said.

"A lot of people said, ‘I'm not going to bother going through a process if the council denied it," Novak said.

Bedrick said the rules are stacked against the medical marijuana industry in some East Valley cities.

"Gilbert and Chandler made their zoning laws so intensely scrutinized that I don't believe there's going to be a dispensary in every single CHAA (Community Health Analysis Areas)," Bedrick said.

Arizona could issue licenses as soon as June, which would allow dispensaries to open by July or August.

Department of Health Services rules administrator Tom Salow said he doesn't expect the agency will issue all of the 126 licenses this year that are available. Tribal nations will likely block the 18 dispensaries that the geographical system would set aside for them.

If that's the case, the Department of Health Services would accept applications in 2013 for those licenses or any others not issued this year, Salow said. Arizona would calculate where medical marijuana cardholders live but are underserved by dispensaries.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

(8) comments

No25MileRuleArizona

Another case was filled today in Federal Court which will take Arizona's Medical Marijuana Law back under the micro-scope of Judge Bolton.

02/16/2012 CV12-0322-PHX-SRB Hayes v. Arizona, State of, et al

http://azmmps.org/arizona-medical-marijuana-law-to-be-questioned-in-federal-court

Today a ‘motion for a preliminary injunction and memorandum of law in support thereof’ was filed in the United States District Court for the district of Arizona which will send the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act back to Federal Court. The lawsuit, HAYES vs ARIZONA has Governor Brewer named along side the Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services Will Humble and Robert Halliday who is the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety as well as Tom Horne the Arizona Attorney General. The Plaintiff is listed as Billy Hayes, the Co-Founder and former CEO of Arizona Cannabis Society, local medical marijuana advocate and also a well known medical marijuana cultivation consultant. The case itself is claiming a small portion of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) is unconstitutional, the section in question is being referred to as the “25 Mile Rule” and Hayes is looking to have it removed from the Law.

“comes now, one Pro Se…and hereby moves the court to preliminary enjoin enforcement of Arizona Revised Statute 36-2804.02 (A)(3)(f) and preserve the status quo with respect to that portion of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act that allows for cultivation of Medical Marijuana…”

The case alleges the above listed section of the AMMA interferes with Federal Equal Protection under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and as such should be stricken from the AMMA, no other portion of the AMMA is being challenged.[beam]

Dale Whiting

I forget! Was the idea to legalize medical marajuana a liberal idea, a conservative idea or a bipartisan idea? Is it a states rights principle allowing states to rescind federal law? Is it a response to big government trying to tell little government what to do? Does the Tea Party support marajuana legalization? What does the AMA say about medical marajuana?

Think I've vote for Ron Paul!

beefrits

Not being a virgin, I've been on both sides of this issue. Not being a fool, it's obvious that this is nothing more than a scam and a way for those who want to toke up to avoid all the hassles associated with an illegal product, as well as being the introduction of a whole new industry.
Why is it that we just can't deal with the legalization of marijuana in an honest manner? It's not up for debate that those who want, or need in the case of the small minority of "patients" who find the herb effective for pain management, will get their medicine one way or another. Why does it have to be through a chain of Rastafarian "pharmacies" hawking varieties named like something out of Alice in Wonderland?

tempemama

this is a nationwide issue, we in Mich are having problems with our attorney general trying to undermine the laws . He has started a campaign of having seminars on how to bust legal medical marijuana paitents.
They don't regulate how many gas stations can be in an area or drug stores or grocery stores, and all of these businesses carry products that can be hazardous to your health. it's just all about the money!! Greedy bastards.

DaveKAz

When the voters pass a referendum it is given a status higher than laws passed by the legislature and in essence becomes part of our Arizona constitution. The voters passed three different medical marijuana initiatives. If any of us disrespected the Arizona constitution these idiots or ones like them would be all over us faster than Joe Arpaio on an illegal alien burning the flag. Where do people like this get the unmitigated gall to disrespect the voters? If they do not like the people of this state and do not respect their choices they need to move further out into the desert than Chandler or leave the state altogether.

PeacefulCat

All this is about is keeping the price of pot so high that people will continue to rob, smuggle, kill and pay the pot politicians and attorneys for crime protection.

Marijuana is safe enough for a mother to give here new born for colic or her grandmother for cancer.

However, the Pot politicians have no intentions of allowing people to grow this simple herb in their backyard and keep their money in their back pocket. This Hemp Hoax that started in 1937 was one of the biggest mistakes this nation ever made. The Pot War Politicians should be rounded up and put in an insane asylum or a federal prison. They are either crazy or crooked.

dockle

One dispensary per CHAA is not legal. This needs to be challenged in court. They are essentially funneling people to a specific place, that is not how the system should work. The cities should wake up and realize the benefits of the dispensaries to the economy. Yes, they pay taxes and create jobs. Accountants, Security professionals, construction, food industry and many others benefits from local businesses paying taxes and it becomes accumulative. How many Walgreen's, CVS and other pharmacies are there per CHAA?

downtownresident

It's ok the put guns on every school campus in the state, instantly making everyone on campus a potential shooter, in case of a shooting, or other problem.
And to put untrained, armed vigilantes on the border and visit untold numbers of stupid, ignorant laws that make no sense to intelligent people, but, God forbid that the mental midgets in power enact a law passed by a majority of the people who pay their wages.
Jan, et al, you make me sick.

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