|Photo: The Huffington Post|
|The next public comment period for implementation of Arizona’s medical marijuana law begins January 31 and is open until February 18.|
How, exactly, will Arizona’s new medical marijuana law — narrowly approved by state voters in last November’s election — play out? Nobody seems quite sure, as some law enforcement aspects have yet to be spelled out, and lawmakers are not quite ready to spell out just how police will deal with violators.
Determining standards for driving under the influence of marijuana is one issue currently at the forefront of the new law, according to Lake Havasu City Police Chief Dan Doyle, reports Jayne Hanson of the Havasu News-Herald.
“There is no threshold for drugs,” Doyle said. “We have a test for alcohol. But there is no threshold for marijuana.”
Another iffy scenario is possession of cannabis.
|Photo: Lake Havasu City|
|Lake Havasu City Police Chief Dan Doyle: “There are logistics that have to be sorted out”|
”What happens with a possession charge when the person says, ‘I have a medical marijuana card, but the card isn’t on me?’ ” Doyle asked. “How do we address [Arizona Department of Health Services] to check on the status? There are logistics that have to be sorted out.”
Because medical marijuana is directly linked to patients’ medical history, federal laws protecting that information are a big factor, according to Doyle.
Along with law enforcement officials from all over the state, Doyle attended an Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police seminar last week centering on medical marijuana law enforcement. Representatives of Arizona DHS were also there, he said.
Also high on Doyle’s list of concerns are “too much cash and too much marijuana” at dispensaries.
“There definitely are concerns,” Doyle said. “There have been problems in other [medical marijuana]states.”
Banks often will not do business with dispensaries because the banks are federally regulated — and marijuana is illegal for any purpose at the federal level. This increases the chances that large amounts of cash will be found at dispensaries.
“Excessive” amounts of marijuana at dispensaries or home cultivation centers are also “areas of interest” for law enforcement, Doyle said.
In comparison to other medical marijuana states, Doyle said he thinks the Arizona DHS system will be “more regulated.”
For example, the medical marijuana registry will be handled through one state agency versus separate counties as in some other states. And doctor/patient relationship regulations are much stricter in Arizona, Doyle said.
Lake Havasu City police officers will be trained through a “standardized process,” which, according to Doyle, is “still in the works.” The training will be handled through the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, he said.
The video training for medical marijuana enforcement will be similar to training Arizona officers underwent last year after the controversial Arizona immigration laws went into effect.
Arizona’s first public comment period for medical marijuana ended on Friday, according to the Arizona DHS website. The 1,300 comments received will be reviewed and another draft will be released by January 31, according to the agency.
The issues getting the most public interest in the comment period, according to the website, include:
• The definition and requirements for doctor/patient relationship
• Adding mental illness, PTSD, fibromyalgia and depression to the list of approved illnesses
• Fee structures
• Geographic distances for caregiver/patient cultivation
• Dispensary cultivation amount requirements
• Dispensary approval and registration
• Dispensary medical doctor requirements
• Medical doctor qualifications; and
• Regulations surrounding dispensaries being associated with cultivation facilities.
The next comment period linked to the newly released draft will begin on January 31 and last until February 18. After that, the final draft will be published March 28 and the final public comment deadline is April 13.
The law is expected to take effect in April. Marijuana sales will begin in mid-summer, after dispensaries have had the opportunity to set up and cultivate the cannabis, the website said.
According to the current draft, qualified caregivers and patients would only be allowed up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at any given time.
All dispensaries will be required to be nonprofit businesses. Registry cards will cost $150 for patients and $200 for qualified caregivers.
Dispensary fees will be $5,000 initially, $1,000 for renewal and $2,500 for relocation of a grow facility, according to the website.
The Arizona DHS plans to establish a 24-hour web-based verification system for law enforcement and marijuana dispensary personnel to verify registry ID cards.
Detailed security measures required for dispensaries include intrusion protection, exterior lighting and electric monitoring that allows 24-hour, seven-days-a-week virtual monitoring by the Arizona DHS.
Arizona DHS will not issue more than one dispensary approval for every 10 pharmacies in a community. (How did they arrive at the interesting conclusion that we need only 10 percent as many marijuana dispensaries as drug stores?)
Arizona DHS is seeking input from all Arizonans on the implementation of Proposition 203, the medical marijuana law.
“We are using the Initiative as a guideline to set up a system that is good for all the people in Arizona — those who voted yes and those who voted no,” said Will Humble, Arizona DHS director. “We really need everyone’s input to make this work, because everyone will be affected by it, whether they use medical marijuana or not.”
To participate in the public commenting, or for more information about medical marijuana in Arizona, visit http://www.azdhs.gov/prop203/.
Arizona DHS will hold four public meetings about the medical marijuana draft rules from February 14-17:
- Flagstaff: Monday, February 14, 2011 at 10:00 am, 211 W. Aspen Ave
- Phoenix: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm, 250 N. 17th Ave
- Tucson: Wednesday, February, 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm, 400 W. Congress, Room 222
- Phoenix: Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm, 250 N. 17th Ave