State selects winners to operate medical marijuana dispensaries
About 30,000 patients have been growing pot, or getting it from legal growers
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV/AP) – Arizona officials used a bingo-style machine with sets of numbered air-blown balls Tuesday as they picked winners from among more than 400 applicants for certificates to run 97 medical marijuana dispensaries around the state.
The lottery is a key implementation step for the voter-created health program whose legality is still in question because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Health Services Director Will Humble says applicants allocated dispensary certificates now must file more paperwork and then pass various inspections before getting licenses to operate.
He says some dispensaries could open their doors within weeks but that it may take others until next spring.
Some business owners like James Pumarejo of Success Martial Arts was hoping his neighbor’s luck would run out.
“I’m completely against it. We have a dentistry place just for children,” Pumarejo said. “We have martial arts with 100 children here. I’ve already talked to parents and they would be furious. It would kill our business.”
Others, though, welcome a business occupying the empty space next door – like Deitrich Benjamin: “We know because of the law they are taking precautions for safety of our clients, for all the clients in the whole area here.”
Tens of thousands of people already have permits to use medical marijuana, but they've had to grow pot or get it from other permitted individuals until dispensaries begin operating.
Legal growers living with 25 miles of a dispensary must start to shut down operations, while current medical marijuana cardholders can grow pot until their annual renewal. Ultimately, some 30 thousand Arizona patients will only be able to get their marijuana at these dispensaries.
Some like Kimberly Haslett, president and founder of Southwest Arizona Patience Alliance (SWAPA), fear prices will skyrocket - especially for those who are used to growing medical marijuana at home.
“Some of these patients are not going to be able to afford the dispensary prices. Some are going to do it the right way; they’re doing it for compassionate reasons. Some of them are just in it for the money.”
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said he will push for prosecutors to ask state courts to declare medical marijuana dispensaries illegal, arguing that state law cannot authorize a violation of federal law (which prohibits selling marijuana).