Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jan 2012
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2012 The Arizona Republic
Authors: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Mary K. Reinhart


Arizona officials will not appeal last week's judicial ruling that 
the state must allow medical-marijuana dispensaries and cannot 
restrict who operates them based on where they live or their financial history.

Judge Richard Gama's decision broadened the pool of potential 
dispensary owners and cleared the way for the state's medical-pot 
industry. The only remaining question was whether state officials 
would challenge the ruling.

Will Humble, director of the state's health department, on Tuesday 
said his department will begin accepting applications sometime this 
year. The state anticipates licensing up to 125 dispensaries.

The state must still go through a rule-making process before it can 
accept the applications.

Officials estimate the state could make applications available in 
April with an expedited process, or as late as September if they must 
go through the more typical, longer process.

Under the law, passed by voters in 2010, state workers issue ID cards 
authorizing people with certain debilitating medical conditions to 
use pot. Proposition 203 also requires state health officials to 
license medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Health officials were set to accept dispensary applications last 
June, but Gov. Jan Brewer sued in federal court, halting the process. 
She sought a ruling over whether Arizona's law trumped federal drug 
laws and, if not, whether state workers would be immune from federal 
prosecution for implementing it.

A judge dismissed that lawsuit earlier this month, and Brewer said 
she would allow the dispensary-permit process to begin. But, she said 
she wouldn't allow the state to issue licenses until a lower-court 
ruled on a separate lawsuit challenging regulations governing dispensaries.

That ruling by Gama came last week.

The judge threw out rules requiring dispensary applicants to be state 
residents for three years and have no history or bankruptcy or 
"government debts," such as unpaid child support, taxes or traffic tickets.

The remaining qualifications require that applicants not be convicted 
felons, be at least 21 year old and comply with state law.

Also, people with 20 percent or more interest in a dispensary must be 
listed as the applicant, principal or board member.
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