What do the names Blue Dreams, G-13 Haze, Canna Sutra, Crimea Blue, Purple Kush, Romulan, S.A.G.E, Vortex, Sour OG Kush and A-Train have in common? They are some of the most popular strains of medical-grade cannabis, and they could be on Arizona dispensaries’ shelves this summer.
Arizona became the 16th state to allow medical marijuana after voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act on Nov. 2, 2010, and it became law Dec. 14, 2010. According to the proposition, its purpose “is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians and providers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties and property forfeiture if such patients engage in the medical use of marijuana.” There are currently 17 other states with pending legislation to legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal use.
Under the Arizona law, if a patient lives more than 25 miles from a medical marijuana dispensary, the patient can cultivate up to 12 cannabis plants and caregivers can cultivate up to 12 plants for each patient, with a maximum of five patients per caregiver. Those with state-issued medical marijuana cards are permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks, and a caregiver can possess up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks per patient.
The law went into effect in early 2011, but just as the Arizona Department of Heath Services was poised to begin accepting applications for dispensaries, Governor Jan Brewer filed a lawsuit May 27, 2011, to seek clarification as to whether federal law that makes cannabis illegal trumps the state medical marijuana law and if state workers faced possible federal prosecution for implementing state law.
United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton ruled in favor of a motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and dismissed the case. Bolton said because of a lack of evidence, Brewer’s complaint was not appropriate for judicial review.
Brewer accepted the ruling and directed the ADHS to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, but said no license would be issued until another lawsuit – this time filed against the ADHS over rules it made up for dispensary applications – was settled.
That lawsuit, Compassion First LLC v. State of Arizona, was filed because the plaintiffs argued the rules made up by the ADHS would exclude them from the dispensary selection process. The lawsuit also alleged that the rules were unconstitutional.
On Jan. 17, Maricopa Superior Court Judge J. Richard Gama granted a summary judgment for the plaintiffs and said regulations requiring dispensary applicants to be an Arizona resident for three years, to have never filed for personal or corporate bankruptcy and requiring applicants to submit an Arizona personal income tax returns for the previous three years and other regulations were unconstitutionally vague and invalid. The judge then ordered the state to implement the lawful provisions of the AMMA.
ADHS Director Will Humble wrote in his Jan. 25 blog that his department’s goal is to accept applications in April and potentially award up to 125 dispensary licenses by mid-June. Humble said by that timetable, it could be likely that medical marijuana dispensaries would be operational by July or August. One dispensary will be allowed to operate for each Community Health Analysis Area.
Safford’s CHAA consists of southern Graham County and takes in the Gila Valley. As of Jan. 3, there were 75 approved medical marijuana patients and three caregivers in the southern Graham County CHAA and 29 patients and one caregiver in the Duncan/Morenci CHAA.
Nearly 18,000 medical marijuana patient applications were received between April 14, 2011, and Jan. 3, 2012 with only eight denied. The age groups with the most applications were 18-30-year olds and 41-50-year olds with about 23 percent each. The overwhelming majority of reported medical conditions was chronic pain ( 87 percent ) followed by muscle spasms ( 14 percent ) and nausea ( 12.6 percent. ) Some patients reported more than one condition, which resulted in the percentages exceeding 100. About 75 percent of the approved patients are men.