Pubdate: Wed, 09 May 2012
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2012 The Arizona Republic
Author: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez


Medical-marjiuana dispensaries will have to employ a medical director 
at their operations, as state health officials require, a Maricopa 
County Superior Court judge has ruled. The non-profits could begin 
opening this summer.

Judge Richard Gama's May 1 decision is an important one because it 
could prevent abuse of medical marijuana, said Will Humble, director 
of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

"This is a really important component of the program because without 
it, over time, it would've evolved into each dispensary just moving 
product," Humble said.

"But if you have a medical director, you have someone who's invested 
time and money in that license, they've got that license to protect, 
and they need to act in an ethical way and make sure their 
organization works ethically."

Dispensary medical directors must train dispensary agents at least 
once a year, develop guidelines for informing patients about the 
risks, benefits and side effects of medical marijuana, and know how 
to recognize signs and symptoms of substance abuse.

Would-be dispensary owner Gerald Gaines sued last year over the 
state's dispensary regulations and the governor's failure to fully 
implement the program. In January, Gama ruled in favor of Gaines, 
saying the state cannot restrict who runs medical-marijuana 
dispensaries based on where they live or their financial history.

The state is moving ahead with implementing the program and later 
this month will begin to accept applications for dispensaries. Also, 
state officials will hold a public hearing on May 25 to consider 
whether to add post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, depression 
and anxiety as conditions that qualify for medical-marijuana certification.

Gaines filed an amended complaint to challenge the state's 
requirement on the medical-director requirement, saying they were 
unnecessary. "It's not the exact ruling we wanted," Gaines said 
Tuesday, saying he may again challenge the requirement.

Under the voter-approved law, state workers issue special ID cards to 
people with certain medical conditions, authorizing patients to use 
marijuana. Proposition 203 also allows the state health department to 
issue permits for up to 126 marijuana dispensaries across the state. 
State officials set up the rules for the program.

Health officials will begin accepting dispensary applications Monday 
through May 25.

More than 22,200 people have received permission to smoke, eat or 
otherwise ingest medical marijuana to ease their ailments.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom