Marijuana and Cannabis News
In his Wednesday ruling, Judge Richard Gama struck down some restrictions that state officials had planned to use to determine which applicants were eligible for dispensary licenses, report Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Mary K. Reinhart of the Tucson Citizen.
Judge Gama noted that Arizona voters wanted the Medical Marijuana Act implemented 120 days after it passed and that "this has not been done," reports Ray Stern at Phoenix New Times.
The reason it wasn't done, Stern reports, is that Governor Jan Brewer -- who spoke out against Proposition 203 before voters approved it in November 2010 -- halted the dispensary portion of the new law at the same time she filed an unsuccessful federal lawsuit against it. Brewer decided on Friday that she wouldn't refile that lawsuit and that the state should begin accepting applications once a lawsuit by Compassion First AZ was resolved.
Judge Gama's ruling resolved that lawsuit, but it will still be months before the state's 18,000-plus medical marijuana patients can walk into a dispensary and get their medicine, Phoenix New Times reports.
|Phoenix Business Journal|
|Gerald Gaines, founder, Compassion First AZ: "The rules, we felt, were unfair and illegal. The judge agreed with that, so we're very pleased with the ruling"|
That lawsuit, mounted by Gerald Gaines, CEO of the for-profit group Compassion First AZ, challenged Arizona's rules regarding dispensary licensing.
The rules required applicants to be Arizona residents for three years, to file personal income taxes in the state for three years and to have no history of personal or corporate bankruptcy. The rules also specified that applicants could not be delinquent on child support, taxes, parking tickets, student loans and other government debts.
"The rules, we felt, were unfair and illegal," Gaines said. "The judge agreed with that, so we're very pleased with the ruling, and look forward to the state moving forward with the dispensary process as quickly as they can."
The rules are "onerous and substantively alter the requirements of the Act," Judge Gama wrote in his detailed ruling [PDF]. "DHS cannot bootstrap substantive regulations of who may apply..."
Under Arizona's medical marijuana law, state employees issue ID cards to patients with certain medical conditions, authorizing them to use cannabis. Prop 203 also allows the state Department of Health Services to issue permits for a limited number of dispensaries throughout the state.
Gaines' lawsuit was one of a number of challenges after Gov. Jan Brewer failed to fully implement the medical marijuana law approved by voters in November 2010. Gaines, a philanthropist who was one of the founders of Sprint PCS, said his business will consider applying for dispensaries now that the lawsuit has won.
Gaines is already moving forward with three medical marijuana cultivation centers in the state, with the first scheduled to open next month. He said those facilities will feature dozens of licensed caregivers who will grow and distribute marijuana to qualified patients. They may have to close down at some point, however, if a licensed dispensary opens nearby.
In May, Brewer filed a lawsuit in federal court and stalled the dispensary permitting process, claiming she wanted to "clarify" whether U.S. federal drug laws superseded Prop 203 and, if not, whether state employees are immune from federal prosecution for implementing the law.
|Voice of Detroit|
|Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has been ordered by a judge to get the hell out of the way of medical marijuana dispensaries opening in her state|
The governor dropped her federal lawsuit last week, saying she would allow state health officials to start the processing for licensing dispensaries. But she said she would not allow workers to complete the process by actually issuing the damn licenses until the courts resolved a separate legal challenge over the rules governing the shops.
DHS had characterized the case as a "stumbling block" to begin the dispensary permitting process, but with the judge's Wednesday ruling, they are looking at "the best way to responsibly begging accepting applications" for dispensaries.
Gov. Brewer allowed the health department to keep issuing ID cards to qualified medical marijuana patients. Nearly 18,000 Arizonans are now authorized to use marijuana to treat a variety of medical conditions including cancer and chronic pain.
About 15,000 of those patients have requested permission to grow their own cannabis; Arizona's medical marijuana law only allows them to do that if the nearest dispensary is more than 25 miles away. But with Gov. Brewer's stalling of the licensing process having kept any dispensaries from officially opening, every patient in the state is still eligible to grow their own medicine.
Brewer could appeal Judge Gama's ruling. A spokesman said the governor "is reviewing" the judge's decision, and, conferring with state health officials and legal counsel, will figure out how to go forward.
The state must now go back through the rule making process to change the application dates. Under the new timeline, officials estimated that permits would be issued in mid-November.