Arizona’s Medical Marijuana law is two years old. Patients have had the ability to get medical marijuana cards, giving them the legal protection they need. But the regulated dispensary portion of the program that was specifically called for in the law has been delayed due to numerous obstructions and legal challenges from state and local officials, primarily Republicans.
The program passed in 2010, a landslide year for the GOP. At every turn the voter-approved program has survived challenges and finally the first licensed and legal dispensaries are beginning to open up. The world has not ended. Crime has not erupted. Sick people are getting the relief they need.
During the past two years legal challenges and failure to implement the medical marijuana law forced patients to either grow their own medicine, or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. Caregivers resorted to forming so-called private compassion clubs to help patients get their medicine. Many of these were started as altruistic endeavors meant to fill the gap created by the lack of dispensaries. As time passed, many of these unlicensed clubs began exploiting the system and ignored the spirit of the law.
They are not subject to security regulations, zoning regulations, background checks, and oversight by the Arizona Department of Health Services, unlike dispensaries.
A private club does not access the DHS database to ensure that the patient’s card is valid and that they have not purchased more than their allowable amount (to prevent diversion). A dispensary is required to do this.
The very same politicians who created these problems are using them to argue for re-voting. It’s unnecessary. It’s not right. All that’s needed is to enforce the existing law to rid Arizona of unregulated clubs. Both medical marijuana proponents and opponents should seek to shut them down.
Let’s work together with law enforcement and elected officials to ensure that Arizona’s medical marijuana program stays legitimate and does not get co-opted by those who are more concerned about money than patients. That is why we also support tougher penalties for anyone who may be purchasing medical marijuana illegally.
Finally, some $40 million could be provided by our operators to state and local governments through orderly taxes or fees. Attorney General Tom Horne has already opined this could occur, but as we set aside money for this purpose, the state won’t or doesn’t know how to collect it.
The key to this issue is reform, not repeal. For politicians to not allow a voter-approved measure to unfold as voted upon is the height of arrogance. If, after the program is finally given the chance to operate as a regulated product, and then fails to do so, even we will stand up and call for repeal. Until then, relief for patients and reforms should be our rallying cry, not repeal.
— Bill Myer is co-owner of state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary Arizona Organix in Glendale. Ken Sobel is owner of state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary Green Halo in Tucson.