On Tuesday, state health department auditors in Arizona selected 97 collectives to receive operating licenses in the state through a random lottery system.
Over 400 applicants had put their names in the running to receive a license in 68 of the state’s “community health analysis areas.” Each of the additional 29 areas only received one applicant, as they are areas with lower populations of medical marijuana patients and may not seem as favorable to shop owners.
Unique to Arizona, the approved locations of the collectives are not available to the general public. Instead, a list of collectives will only be given to the over 30,000 registered patients in the state’s medical marijuana program.
According to Health Director Will Humble, shops in Arizona could be open for business as soon as the end of August. He expects that other applicants may face significant delays in opening because they still have to secure leases, inventory and security systems. These collectives may not be open for patients until Spring 2013.
While collective owners and medical marijuana supporters are happy with the progress being made with the state’s medical marijuana program, others are trying to stop collectives from opening.
Last week, 13 state attorneys wrote a letter to Governor Jan Brewer asking that she halt the program, as it would be putting state employees at risk of violating federal law. Brewer, reflecting on last year’s court ruling that collectives must open, respectfully told the attorneys that collectives would indeed open in the state.
Additionally, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has launched an effort to ensure that collectives do not open in the state. He has promised to prosecute all medical marijuana collectives that open in the state.
Montgomery also announced on Tuesday that he is working toward getting a court ruling that would eliminate Arizona’s voter approved medical marijuana program all togther. Should he actually succeed, collectives would not be allowed to open and patients would no longer be able to legally grow, smoke, or possess marijuana. He will be seeking out a trial judge to rule that the state’s medical marijuana law is preempted by the Controlled Substances Act. The CSA is the federal law which states that it is a crime to possess or sell marijuana.
Montgomery explained that, “Once I get that ruling, what I’m going to then do is I’m going to turn around and issue guidance to law enforcement agencies within Maricopa County that medical marijuana cards are no longer a defense to the personal possession, and that we will move forward and prosecute those cases.”
So, 97 collective owners now know where their shops will be located and that they will be issued licenses from the state to operate. Patients are gaining the peace of mind that they will soon have simpler, safer access to their medicine. But how long will this last? Will Montgomery indeed put the kibosh on all collectives, despite previous court rulings? The future of Arizona’s medical marijuana program is unclear. One thing that is clear is that the medical marijuana controversy continues in yet another state, muddling the waters for patients and shop owners alike.