Thousands get medical marijuana cards, despite legal tangle
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Fri, July, 15th 2011 by THCFinder
More than 7,500 Arizonans had been approved for personal medical marijuana licenses as of Wednesday, despite a well-publicized court battle that has delayed implementation of other parts of the law.
The court fight between the state and federal governments has temporarily halted approval of marijuana dispensaries but not personal licenses, which had been granted to 7,570 individuals and 270 caregivers by this week. The Arizona Department of Health Services could not say how many of the caregivers, if any, also had patient licenses.
Only seven patient applications have been denied so far and 93 percent of applications for caregivers — who help patients administer their medical marijuana — have been approved.
Three-quarters of approved patients are men and about 60 percent are older than 41. But the department said two minors have also had applications approved. The vast majority of applicants cited chronic pain as the reason they needed medical marijuana.
Close to 80 percent of applicants have asked for approval to grow their own marijuana, which is allowed under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act for anyone who does not live within 25 miles of a dispensary. Individuals approved to grow their own can legally maintain up to 12 plants in their homes and caregivers can grow for up to five patients at a time.
Those numbers have even some medical marijuana activists concerned about quality control and safety issues surrounding home-grown marijuana in residential areas.
The state in May stopped processing dispensary applications after concerns were raised that state employees might face federal prosecution for assisting in marijuana distribution. The state sued the Justice Department on May 27 seeking clarification of the federal government’s position before proceeding on the dispensary applications.
The Justice Department issued a memo in June that was supposed to give guidance to states with medical marijuana laws, but Gov. Jan Brewer said it offered “little more than continued confusion and doublespeak.”
“If this memo was an attempt at clarity, it failed,” she said.
The delay in dispensary decisions has sparked other lawsuits by groups trying to force the state to begin processing applications. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion last week asking a federal judge to dismiss the suit brought by Brewer and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
“Arizona is in a very gray area because the law passed at an unfortuitous time when the federal government is unclear,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
If no dispensaries are approved in the state, every medical marijuana patient would theoretically be able to grow their own. Those who did not get that permission initially could pay $10 and apply to amend their license.
If a home-grown market sprouts up in Arizona, Dhar Mann is ready to cultivate it.
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