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Arizona Marijuana Rules Raise More Issues Than They Solve


The Phoenix Health Center will possibly become one of Arizona’s first legal centers for dispensing medical marijuana in July 2011. The company has been closely involved in the licensing procedures and policies involved to be state recognized as a dispensary. The state recently released its first round of regulations, and those guidelines only serves to raise more issues than they solve.

The law states that a patient or their designated caregiver can grow cannabis if the patient lives more than 25 miles away from the nearest dispensary (R.S. §§ 36-2801(1)(a)(ii) and (1)(b)(ii) and 36-2804.02(A)(3)(f)).

Dispensaries have the option of cultivating marijuana on-site or at an alternative location, and must grow at least 70 percent of the product it sells. It must be grown in compliance with local restrictions and zoning laws. Dispensaries must also have a control program in place that monitors where all marijuana is grown, sold and to whom it was sold (R9-17-307(C) and R9-17-302(B)(6)) and with A.R.S. § 36-2804(B)(1)(b)(ii).

The regulation was possibly intended to limit the number of growing facilities and ensure they remain small, but the amount of marijuana needed for a single dispensary can amount to 30 pounds or more per month, meaning dispensaries will have to grow 320 plants at a time. This number is in direct conflict with the federal government’s 100-plant limit. Exceeding this limit is a mandatory five-year prison sentence.

One possible solution would be to allow outside sources to grow marijuana for patients and sell it to dispensaries. It would provide the needed marijuana supply while ensuring growing facilities remained small.

This still doesn’t address where new start up dispensaries will obtain the marijuana they sell. The statute leaves no alternative for dispensaries than to purchase seeds or clones. An alternative that make sense is for the state to allow dispensaries to acquire marijuana from legal sources in surrounding states such as California or Colorado.

To address medical oversight, dispensaries are required to employ or contract with a medical doctor or osteopath to act as medical director for the facility (informal draft rules R9-17-307(A)(3)) and (R9-17-310(C)) and the director’s duties are defined in R9-17-310(C). Physicians acting as directors can’t recommend medical marijuana to qualifying patients (informal draft rules A.A.C. R9-17-310(D)).

Medical directors can only work with three dispensaries at one time. They must be on-site during hours of operation, be available for contact by any means possible and provide appropriate oversight. They must also provide educational materials and offer alternative medical options. They must inform patients of side effects and guidelines for contacting medical assistance for side effects. Drug interactions, marijuana strengths and the use of marijuana paraphernalia must be discussed. The dangers of substance abuse and substance abuse programs must also be examined.

The need for a full-time director is questionable. Appropriate safety and other materials on virtually every aspect of medical marijuana can be printed and provided to patients without the need for an on-site physician. The statute may have been developed to ensure proper labeling and education, but it makes more sense to set specific standards, guidelines and education requirements through the AZDHS. Another solution would be to allow physicians who want to specialize in this area help all dispensaries without limit.

For more information on medical marijuana, fans can join Phoenix Health Center on their Facebook page at


 Medical Marijuana
 Arizona Dispensary
 Legal Cannabis
 Prop 203
 Phoenix Health Center

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