Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries were supposed to have been open by now.
Their deadline, per the state’s Department of Health Services, was Aug. 7, or else they would have to forfeit the licenses they were awarded in last year’s lottery.
However, as our Arizona marijuana attorneys understand it, a superior court judge has granted these operations extensions in order to give them more time to organize before opening.
This is going to save many dispensaries, which had run into legal roadblocks from local government entities, which had significantly slowed the opening process. Because of this, many feared they would have to give up everything they had worked for up to this point. In some ways, it seemed as if anti-marijuana advocates had won.
However, the superior court judge ultimately ruled that the deadline was “unreasonable.”
Still, dispensaries are going to have to apply to the health department to have those licenses renewed. A renewal might not be a given though, if the director’s comments are any indication. He was quoted as saying that the agency would begrudgingly comply with the order, as it wasn’t one with which he personally agreed.
Arizona dispensaries would do well to ensure they have adequate legal representation as they continue to navigate the process.
Dispensary owners say they would have had no issue opening by the initial deadline, had they not met with such fierce resistance from local authorities. This was a factor that the health department, when it initially set the guidelines, did not anticipate.
The deadline represented a one-year time frame from the time an application was approved.
In all, nearly 100 organizations that were granted at first granted permission to distribute the drug to specified patients in storefront facilities would not have been able to meet that deadline.
This extension represents the second one for dispensaries in the state. Previously, the deadline had been June.
From a legal standpoint, the judge noted that there was no process whatsoever for a would-be dispensary operator to secure an extension, even with good reason.
The judge ruled that the state health agency needs to draft new rules that will allow for an appellate process for those who can’t meet the deadlines as listed. Until those new rules are in place, the judge said, no authorization already granted can be rescinded.
Now, once those rules are in place, it’s entirely possible that authorizations for extensions could be revoked by the agency. But the processes all have to be fully fleshed out before that can happen, the judge ruled.
This ruling will affect some 17 municipalities, including Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa, Mohave County and Benson.
Three years ago, voters in Arizona approved a measure that allows those with certain medical conditions to obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes, so long as they are able to secure a doctor’s recommendation. A prescription will be the basis for a state-issued identification card. That allows the patient up to 2.5 ounces of the drug twice a month.
So far, an estimated 40,000 patient applications have been approved, with about 125 dispensaries approved for state licenses. The dispensaries are authorized to cultivate and distribute the drug to both patients and caregivers.