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Medical Marijuana Laws in Arizona

An interesting July 2nd ruling by Judge Richard Fields has everyone talking about the legality and moral implications for medical marijuana patients selling their marijuana to other patients. If the ruling stands, this particular decision has the potential to create many different opportunities for Arizonans to sell their marijuana legally.

The Case of the Medical Marijuana Patient Selling to Other Patients

In October, Jeremy Allen Matlock was indicted on three felony counts of growing and selling marijuana. Matlock was a licensed cardholder at the time of his indictment, and was cooperative with law enforcement. His public defender, Sarah Bullard, argued for dismissal of the case because Matlock had broken no laws by selling his marijuana.

The voter approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act allows patients to sell marijuana to other patients because it states “a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for various marijuana related offenses. On the other hand, the AMMA gets vague in the next paragraph where it says: qualified Arizonans can’t be prosecuted “for offering or providing marijuana to a registered qualifying patient or a registered designated caregiver for the registered qualifying patient’s medical use or to a registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary if nothing of value is transferred in return and the person giving the marijuana does not knowingly cause the recipient to possess more than the allowable amount of marijuana.”

Whew, what a mouthful! The long sentence and lack of punctuation led to many different interpretations of the laws. Judge Field says the law could be taken two ways. The way the Pima County Attorney’s Office reads the law means patients and caregivers can’t sell/give their marijuana if anything or value is transferred, but Matlock and Bullard argued “nothing of value” pertains only to patients selling to dispensaries.

The Verdict for Patients Legally Selling Marijuana

Lucky for Matlock, Arizona has another law that states if the law can be interpreted in more than one way that the more lenient interpretation is awarded to the defendant. Judge Fields ruled that the law implies that medical marijuana patients are able to sell to other patients. Additionally, to obtain a conviction the state must prove not only was something of value transferred between the two parties, but that it ALSO knowingly caused the recipient to obtain more than the total allowed amount of marijuana. Without both of these, a conviction is difficult.
Judge Fields dismissed the entire case, on the grounds that law just wasn’t clear enough. Enjoy the vagueness while you can because after all this controversy, clarification is surely on the way.

The Irony of the Arizona MMJ ProgramBack in November 2010, amid some controversy with the count, the voters of Arizona approved by a slim margin the use of cannabis as medicine. With few details delineated, they entrusted their representatives with the fine print.

For almost two years we the people have endured the political leaders of our state delaying and questioning and petitioning the law’s effect.

 Last week, the Arizona Department of Health Services successfully held the long awaited lottery to decide which applicants can move forward with the opening of the first 99 of 126 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

 In 2011, Governor Jan Brewer initiated dialogue with the federal government to ensure legal safety for state employees issuing medical marijuana licenses to dispensaries and patients. This was seen by many as the governor’s way of reversing the vote or, at the very least, of delaying the impact of the new law. This, at a time when not one public employee has been implicated in a Federal Controlled Substances Act court case.

 Now, we are hearing from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne who announced his intentions to file an injunction to keep legitimately selected dispensaries from operating. In our opinion, those in glass houses should hesitate to throw stones.

 Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has also started to threaten filing felony charges against anyone cultivating, handling, distributing, selling, or using (without a card) cannabis. Ironically, Montgomery claims his warnings are aimed only to protect citizens’ “personal liberty”, a ridiculous notion that suggests revocation of freedom upon expression of other forms of freedom. Even more humorous is the notion of a county attorney prosecuting his own constituents for violations of federal law!

 It seems no one of the top rung of Arizona’s political ladder has been too thrilled about the AMMA since its passage in 2010. Here’s to hoping for good news! And congratulations to all the dispensary drawing winners — we look forward to supporting you!

It’s 2012 and many in the medical marijuana community are gearing up for a politically historic year and one filled with Cannabis Cups.

Arizona has seemingly been left out of the celebrations, what with the numerous federal lawsuits and legal stalling from our dear Governor. All of the hullabaloo surrounding the legalization of marijuana for medical patients within the our borders has served to not only frustrate the voters, but also delay medical care for our sick and create even more bad press for an already embattled (and boycotted) state.

When unfortunate events occur, there is always an opportunity to turn things around. Our ray of sunshine may just lie in a little thing called a Cannabis Cup.

California has been holding annual cannabis celebrations for years. Then Colorado followed.  Now, it seems Michigan has jumped aboard.

The Scoop on Medical Cannabis Cups

Cannabis Cups are wonderful events that serve a myriad of positive goals for both the cannabis community and the public at large. First, let’s talk education.  Providers of medical marijuana and its associated products come together to compete for distinguished “best of” titles. The main event consists of growers vying for the prestige of being officially recognized for cultivating the finest strains across various categories. With the presence of these agriculturists come all other corners of the medical marijuana industry: caregivers, lawmakers, spokespeople, the arts, co-ops, apothecaries, schools, growing equipment, and an impressive assortment of clever and effective delivery methods. With the representatives from the entire community present, there is tremendous educational opportunity. New patients and recreational users might discover the real laws of use instead of abiding by rumors. Children and non-users might identify ways of responsible use and ailments that are eased through the administration of marijuana. Veterans of the cannabis movement will have their passion for legalization rekindled and find enlightenment on all the technological and political advancements.

Along with this education comes the knowledge of safe access. Current and future users know which local businesses they can support and trust to supply the relief weed brings responsibly and lawfully. And good business is good for everyone.

Will We See a Medical Cannabis Cup in AZ?

If Arizona’s Cannabis Cup is presented professionally and respectfully of those who don’t necessarily agree with us, the cause may enjoy some good PR. And we all know good PR and tourism coexist. If we can “get it right” we have the potential to enjoy years of a prosperous state economy propped up by a new source of tax dollars and a resurgence of tourism money. Arizona is poised to be a model for other states looking to follow suit and a beacon of hope for those suffering with cannabinoid-curable diseases.

We Arizonans cannot be afraid to start small. Though the Department of Health Services is only beginning to revisit licensing, we know there are many local marijuana-related businesses eager to organize and promote an event like a Cannabis Cup. The Medical Marijuana Movement truly is a grassroots undertaking.  As such, we at The Arizona Dispensary are calling on our neighbors and partners to join us in showing the world what a great place Arizona really is!

Arizona Medical Marijuana Dispensary LicensingWell, friends, the moment we Arizonans have been waiting for has arrived! The State of Arizona has lifted its moratorium on licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. Patients are one step closer to getting the relief they crave…legally!

The Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services himself declared last week that the State will begin again accepting cannabis dispensary applications.

Jan Brewer, the current governor of Arizona, opted to proceed with caution after the voters approved a law legalizing the sale of medical cannabis, and after the Governor’s office received some very menacing statements from the federal Attorney General regarding the legalization and sale of marijuana (an illicit substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act) within our state.

Then came the stalemate in federal court. For almost a year, the patients of Arizona have been waiting for the green light on the voter-approved medical marijuana program. Both the federal courts and the Attorney General of the United States have essentially ignored the concerns of the Governor and Arizona citizens, so Brewer has decided to comply with the wishes of us, the voters.

The Arizona Department of Health Services states on the Director’s Blog that it will resume the process of taking applications. They expect that the application process will require a few tweaks due to the passage of so much time. Dates and deadlines will most likely change, so stay tuned! The Director hopes to start accepting new applications as soon as the summer of 2012.

TheArizonaDispensary.com will do its best to keep you abreast of all the shifts coming to Arizona’s medical marijuana laws. We are very excited to hear some positive news!

If you would like to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, you can sign up to receive alerts from the Arizona Department of Health Services itself right here: http://www.azdhs.gov/socialmedia.htm

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Forming Special Unit to Target Medical Marijuana

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is working on setting up a special unit to target those individuals looking to use Arizona’s new medical marijuana laws to profit from the illegal sale of the drug. Many believe the introduction of the Medical Marijuana Act in Arizona will loosen the reigns on Arizona’s law enforcement towards the issue — however, the reality is just the opposite. The medical marijuana program will greatly improve the ability to acquire high-grade marijuana, making it an enticing vision for dope-dealers looking to turn a nice profit from selling it to unlicensed patients.

Sheriff Joe has other plans for these people, saying he wants to be prepared for criminals who think the voter-approved law will give them cover to deal marijuana with no recourse. The  new abundance of marijuana that will legally be allowed to be cultivated and dispensed to licensed patients does not give people the right or safety to go around the system to grow, sell or acquire their own marijuana.

Cannabis Convention at University of Phoenix Stadium

On the 14th-16th of April, the Green Relief Medical Marijuana Convention and Expo will be held in the University of Phoenix Stadium. This expo will feature 68 workshops as well as a panel with legal professionals. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu will also be attending to represent the law enforcement group. Patients, caregivers, and those looking to operate a medical marijuana dispensary will be among the hundreds of other attendees looking for information on the exciting new industry.

The entire line-up can be located on the Green Relief Convention website and features an hour-by-hour schedule of the events planned. Medical marijuana card evaluation appointments will cost $200 and will require a reservation. Single day passes will run you $49, 2-day passes are priced at $75 and 3-day passes cost $99. For a full list of pricing, please visit the Green Relief Medical Marijuana Convention & Expo website.

AZDHS Posts Final Rules for Arizona Medical Marijuana Act

Arizona Department of Health Services has posted the ‘final’ draft of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program rules which consists of 92 in-depth pages covering issues from dispensary applications to the mandatory sanitary conditions that are expected to be followed by “cannabis-chefs.” You can view the 92-page rule book in it’s entirety here. Although the version found online is still classified as “unofficial”, AZDHS has claimed that they do not anticipate making substantive changes to the rules before they are filed with the Office of the Secretary of State. The official copy will be posted on www.azsos.gov when it is filed.

You can also find answers to the most frequently asked questions. ADHS posted FAQs for cultivation, dispensaries, physicians, qualifying patients and designated caregivers. These articles along with many other helpful documents can all be found ont he official Arizona Department of Health Services website.

H.B. 2585 To Endanger Arizona Medical Marijuana Patient Confidentiality

Following local news regarding H.B. 2585 we received this note written originally by Noah Mamber, Legislative Analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project.

Apparently H.B. 2585 has passed in the House and will be going to Senate committee hearing Monday. We were watching this bill on March 3, 2011 and unfortunately in this morning’s mail found out that indeed H.B. 2585 has cleared in the House by a vote of 51 yays and 6 nays. That will send H.B. 2585 to the Senate Judiciary Committee this Monday, March 7 at 2 p.m. in SHR1. In essence this bill directly opposes the confidentiality clause in Prop 203 and adds medical marijuana to the controlled substances prescription monitoring program, which has a data base monitored by many different groups.

We ask that those interested in the confidentiality aspect of medical marijuana contact your senator and request that he/she vote “No” to H.B. 2585. Again, the meeting is scheduled for this Monday, March 7 at 2 p.m.in SHR 1. You may e-mail Nmamber@mpp.org if you would like to testify. It would be beneficial to the cause if you (or a family member) are a seriously ill patient and could testify both how medical marijuana is beneficial to you and also that you believe the original intent of Prop 203 was that its use was to be strictly confidential.

This bill (which is in opposition to the confidentiality aspect of MM), was brought to you by: Representative Amanda A. Reeve, Representative Cecil P. Ash, Representative Chad Campbell, Representative Debbie McCune Davis, Representative Eric Meyer, Representative Kimberly Yee, Representative Matt Heinz and Representative Russ Jones. If you are a constituent of these representatives, we especially encourage you to voice your opinion. It is not in the spirit of the original Prop which the voters have passed to connect medical marijuana with the provisions of the laws of controlled substances and that database. By including medical marijuana in a database of these users, the intent of keeping medical marijuana use confidential is diluted and the resultant effect is more government control.

Tempe on Edge to Limit Medical Marijuana Access

Today, January 27, 2011, is debating a new ordinance that will regulate not only marijuana cultivation within the city, but access to medical marijuana dispensaries as well. The proposed ordinance would greatly inconvenience Tempe’s patients by allowing very limited areas of the city – mostly industrial – to operate marijuana facilities. It would also prohibit operating hours to 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. for all dispensaries.

You can voice your opinion by e-mailing the council today or by calling the office of Mayor Hugh Hallman at (480)-350-8865. Briefly and politely ask the council to amend the current ordinance so that medical marijuana dispensaries are treated like medical facilities – not some kind of nuisance.

There is also a meeting tonight (January 27, 2011) at 7:30 P.M.

Tempe City Council Meeting
31 East Fifth Street, Tempe, AZ 85281
Thursday, January 27, 2011 – 7:30 P.M.
(This is a professional meeting; please dress and act accordingly.)

Phoenix City Council Approves Zoning Guidelines

Last week, the Phoenix City Council approved zoning guidelines that will ultimately govern where different types of marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to operate within the city. Elaborating on the current rules allowing for only 1 marijuana dispensary to every 10 pharmacies which will allow for about 120 dispensaries, the guidelines lay down a comforting set of restrictions on the dispensaries that will keep the state from being overrun with these facilities.

The guidelines suggest that no dispensary can operate outside a commercially zoned property and must be at least 250 feet away from residential areas; 1,320 feet from schools, parks and public community centers; and 500 feet from houses of worship. At least one mile must be between two marijuana dispensaries. Drive-thru services are not permitted and operating hours would be limited to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Dispensaries are required to grow their own marijuana or  acquire it from another licensed dispensary. Marijuana growing facilities  for these dispensaries would be confined to areas specifically zoned for agricultural uses, which a 1,000 foot distance requirement from residential areas. These growing facilities would require a permit from the city.

With state fees to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Arizona sitting around $5,000, the facilities will be operated by those who have lived in the state for at least two years. Physicians would oversee each dispensary, providing medical information on the drug as well as safe usage guidelines. Dispensaries selling both marijuana and marijuana-edibles (food infused with marijuana) will be subject to state inspection.

These guidelines provide some comfort for those worrying about the outcome of this Proposition. It should keep the stream of new dispensaries from overtaking everything else.