Arizona's first legal medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors in Glendale Thursday two years after voters approved the use of the drug to treat certain health problems such as chronic pain and cancer.
The Glendale dispensary is among 96 applicants chosen through a lottery system for 126 geographic areas across the state.
Several dozen people waited outside the storefront for the dispensary to open at 10 a.m., a small line stretching around the side of the building located beside a row of other shops, including an antique store and tattoo parlor.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," said Charles Everett, 56, a musician who said he was assaulted and robbed about eight years, leading to a broken femur and ongoing chronic pain.
"I don't like to depend on prescription narcotics," Everett said, wearing jeans and a tie-dye Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. "This is God's green earth right here. It's a great day for Democracy."
Arizona Organix co-owner Bill Myer said he plans to keep the dispensary open at least 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
"If you need medicine on Christmas Day, come and get it," Myer said.
The dispensary is set up similarly to a doctor's office with a waiting room and a flat screen television hung on the wall that was tuned to C-Span. Patients walk up to a bullet-proof window and show their state-issued cards to a woman sitting behind a desk who checks their status on a computer before approving them to walk through another door into a backroom where the marijuana is stored.
Myer said patients then talk to consultants privately about their ailments and discuss the options for different strains of marijuana that offer varying effects.
Nearly 20 states and the District of Columbia have approved medicinal marijuana use in some form. Washington and Colorado became the first states to vote to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21 without the medicinal requirements in other states. Both measures call for setting up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores.
The law took effect in Washington on Thursday. Colorado's law is set to take effect by Jan. 5.
Earlier this week, an Arizona state judge ruled that the medical marijuana law here doesn't usurp federal drug laws, clearing the way for the Glendale dispensary and others to open. State and Maricopa County prosecutors said they planned to appeal.
Myer said he had been waiting until the court ruling to open his dispensary, given the uncertainties of the law and legal challenges.
"It's a very historic day for us and for the patients of Arizona," he said.