Arizona Medical Marijuana Act

Proposition 203, Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, is the only initiative  that made on the November 2010 ballot through the citizen-initiative  process. The project behind the measure, chaired by Andrew Myers,  obtained 250,000 signatures, significantly more than the 153,000  required. The law is designed to allow residents in Arizona with specific medical conditions to be treated with marijuana for personal use.

Unlike California’s medical marijuana statute, however, a precursor to full legalization, Arizona’s law would have been a true medical marijuana law. In Arizona, only 120 Non-Profit “Registered Dispensaries” would have been permitted to distribute marijuana to “Qualifying Patients.” Qualifying Patients are those who have a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C,  amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. In addition, patients who are being treated for chronic disease and also experience nausea, seizures, and severe pain or spasms, would also have been eligible to receive medical marijuana.

Every qualifying patient would have to apply to the Arizona
Department of Health Services (ADHS) and pay a fee to obtain a registration card. The patient would need a certification from his doctor stating that they are eligible, and would sign a statement pledging not to divert marijuana to anyone not allowed to use it.

The law would also require ADHS to establish a statewide web-based identification/verification system, which will be used to track patient purchases, and to prevent patients from buying marijuana from multiple dispensaries. The database would also alert law enforcement that the qualifying patient is allowed to possess marijuana, and is immune from prosecution. Each patient may only possess “an allowable amount of marijuana,” which is defined as two and one-half ounces, and can be obtained every two weeks.

Those who decide they want to get in the medical marijuana business must first meet certain requirements. The application process had not yet been established by ADHS, although the law would have required that rules governing the process be promulgated within 120 after passage of the law (which was one of the reasons it may not have passed). ADHS had already publicly commented that it did not have the resources, or the funds, to enact these rules within the required timeframe. The rules associated with this act would have proven to be  complicated, and certainly scrutinized by law enforcement and political figures alike. Currently, the state is seeking input from the medical and legal community, and may, at some point, accept private funding to move this process along. Once these rules are in place, an applicant would need to pay a non-refundable $5,000 application fee.

Applicants should expect that they would be thoroughly scrutinized. Those with prior felony convictions, or bankruptcies, would likely not qualify. Depending on the number of applicants, one’s credit score and business practices would likely be considered. Growing facilities would be required to identify their locations, and would need to submit to inspection by the state at any time. Importantly, these facilities should consult with legal counsel,  regarding the effect of federal law.

On October 15, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal authorities will continue to prosecute those who possess marijuana, even if California legalizes marijuana for recreational use. These comments are clearly at odds with a policy shift announced a year ago wherein the Obama administration said that federal attorneys would no longer prosecute patients who use marijuana, or dispensaries that distribute it, for medical reasons in states where it has been legalized. Certainly, given the potential for states to fill their coffers with taxes from these facilities, there is no doubt this issue will continue to be a political hot button.

For any questions, please contact Ashley D. Adams of Ashley D. Adams, PLC, 480.219.1366