Pubdate: Wed, 01 Aug 2012
Source: Eastern Arizona Courier (AZ)
Copyright: 2012 Eastern Arizona Courier
Author: Jon Johnson


While welcomed by some and shunned by others on both sides of the 
debate over medical marijuana, a medical marijuana dispensary is set 
to be awarded Aug. 7 in Graham County.

The Arizona Department of Health Services received 484 applications 
for dispensaries throughout the state. Only 126 will be awarded -- 
one for each Community Health Analysis Area -- and a random drawing 
for areas with more than one application will be held Aug. 7. Some 
CHAAs, including all of those on Indian reservations, did not have a 
dispensary applicant.

The Graham County South CHAA had only one application, and it was 
accepted, according to State Health Director Will Humble. The Graham 
County South CHAA encompasses all of Graham County with the exception 
of the San Carlos Apache Reservation.

The Duncan/Morenci CHAA -- which encompasses all of Greenlee County 
- -- also had only one dispensary application, which was also approved. 
The Willcox/Bowie CHAA had three approved applications, however, and 
the AZDHS will hold a random drawing to see which one will be given a 
dispensary registration certificate. The drawing will be similar to 
the Arizona Pick Lottery, which uses a device that blows balls inside 
a clear cage. The process will be broadcast live over the Internet.

Each dispensary that is allocated a registration certificate will 
have a little less than a year to build out and get an approval to 
operate, according to Humble. An approval to operate is not complete 
until the AZDHS receives written notice that the dispensary is ready 
for an inspection and it passes the department's criteria.

Once in operation, dispensaries will be allowed to grow their own 
cannabis and sell to other dispensaries across the state. They will 
also be able to sell cannabis to patients and caregivers with medical 
marijuana registry cards. Patients will be allowed to obtain up to 
2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks.

Once opened, the dispensary will force most patients in the Gila 
Valley to cease growing their own medicine. Registered patients with 
a grow endorsement on their cards will not have the endorsement 
renewed if they live within 25 miles of an operating dispensary. 
According to the program's monthly report, 25,353 of the 29,533 
registered patients were qualified to cultivate cannabis as of June 30.

Safford Police Chief John Griffin previously stated he is in favor of 
opening a dispensary in the city because it would centralize growing 
operations and cause less opportunities for crime against patients. 
Some medical marijuana advocates oppose the opening of a dispensary 
because they would be forced to either purchase the medicine at the 
dispensary for a much higher price than it costs them to grow it 
themselves or purchase lower-quality cannabis on the black market.

New qualifying conditions denied

After reviewing petitions to add four conditions to the medical 
marijuana program, Humble and the AZDHS rejected all four.

Petitioners sought to add migraines, generalized anxiety disorder, 
depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of 
acceptable conditions to receive a medical marijuana card.

While some studies have shown cannabis to be effective for treatment 
of some of the disorders, especially PTSD, Humble said there wasn't 
enough documentation to quantify the addition of any of the disorders.

"At this time, there is insufficient valid, scientific evidence that 
justifies adding these conditions to Arizona's medical marijuana 
program," Humble said. "We heard from a lot of people about their 
experiences, the department reviewed their petitions, but the science 
does not support expanding the program by adding these new qualifying 
conditions. The medical marijuana program will remain as approved by 
the Arizona voters."

Acceptable conditions remain as follows: cancer, hepatitis C, 
cachexia, seizures, glaucoma, sclerosis, Alzheimer's, chronic pain, 
muscle spasms, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease and nausea.

While more than one condition can be reported, the overwhelming 
condition for granting a medical marijuana card in Arizona has been 
for chronic pain, which is listed in about 89 percent of current 
cardholders. The only other double-digit condition listed is muscle 
spasms, with about 13 percent, according to the AZDHS.

Patients ages 18 to 30 make up the largest demographic, with about 
25.67 percent followed by patients ages 51 to 60 (20.66 percent) and 
patients ages 31 to 40 (20.51 percent). Males make up slightly more 
than 73 percent of all patients.

There are 88 registered patients in the Graham County South CHAA and 
between one to four registered caregivers. There are 34 registered 
patients in the Duncan/Morenci CHAA and 35 in the Willcox/Bowie CHAA, 
with neither CHAA having any registered caregivers.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom