Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Moving Forward

January 20, 2012

Arizona’s contentious medical marijuana law is moving closer to full implementation. A ruling in Maricopa County Superior Court this week struck down several rules about who can operate marijuana dispensaries.

Gerald Gaines Gerald Gaines, founder and CEO of Compassion First Arizona. (Nick Blumberg - KJZZ)

Compassion First Arizona has faced off in several cases against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne, who have questioned the legality of the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. A federal suit was tossed earlier this month. Wednesday, county Superior Court Judge Richard Gama invalidated key state restrictions on who can apply for marijuana dispensaries.

Gerald Gaines is the founder of Compassion First. He says the rules went beyond what voters approved. “The rules outlawed anybody who had had a bankruptcy at any time from applying for a license," Gaines said. "Another example was...if you even had an outstanding parking ticket, you could not get a dispensary license.”

The application process for dispensaries has been on hold while the suits wound through the court system. In the meantime, medical marijuana patients and licensed caregivers can apply to grow their own supply. Next month, Compassion First plans to open a facility where caregivers can cultivate medical marijuana. Gaines says it’s an important step.

“Right now, you have over 18,000 patients in Arizona, most of whom do not have a legal supply of marijuana and still are buying on the black market," said Gaines. "Caregiver Circle fills that gap in time between now and the dispensaries opening.” 

The state health department estimates they could issue dispensary licenses sometime in November.

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