The feds snuffed out Arizona's prescription-based program but couldn't do the same to California's, which didn't involve the federal prescription-writing program policed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Despite occasional law enforcement raids, the medical-marijuana industry in the Golden State grew over time, resulting in hundreds of dispensaries operating on the margins of the law. After the biz became semi-legitimate in October 2009 with the Obama Administration's announcement of a hands-off policy, the number of California dispensaries exploded.

City leaders are still trying to rein in the businesses, which they blame for causing neighborhood blight and other problems. In Los Angeles, the City Council voted January 21 to limit the number of pot shops in the city to 100. Which ones among the 135 operating stores that will remain will be decided in a lottery.

California residents can easily qualify to use marijuana for such ailments as insomnia and anxiety. The ease of qualifying for medical pot in the state worries critics concerned that many patients are really recreational users.

Gary and Debbie Frye of Tonopah hope to be among the lucky few who get a license.
Jamie Peachey
Gary and Debbie Frye of Tonopah hope to be among the lucky few who get a license.

In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which set up a state-run medical-marijuana system similar to the one adopted in Arizona.

"Cops out here were very lenient," says Brian Cook of Altitude Organics, a company that owns five dispensaries in Colorado. In the early years, dispensaries often were stocked with "California bud" that flowed into the state, he says.

After President Obama's historic policy change to keep federal cops out of properly run state medical-pot programs, hundreds of new dispensaries opened in Colorado, and demand for doctors' recommendations soared. Neighborhood complaints about the stores increased, and opponents of marijuana gave shrill warnings of how easy it was to obtain a recommendation. New rules that went into effect last year limit the spread of dispensaries and make it harder for patients to obtain a medical-pot card; another round of stiff regulations was under debate as of this writing.

The policies of the 12 other states with medical-marijuana laws have shifted over time, as well — in many cases becoming stricter.

Arizona's program will begin with well-defined rules at both state and local levels. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act allows the DHS to draw up rules controlling the application process.

Even after the rules become final, voters could make more changes to the system in the next general election. Cities also may change zoning requirements. Entrepreneurs may have to endure years of unpredictable rule changes before the industry settles.

Still, they need rules to operate — and to help stave off trouble with the anti-pot crowd.

Will Humble e-mailed a staffer on the morning of November 3, telling her not to worry about a blog post he had written about Prop 203 for the DHS' Web site.

"We won't need it now," he wrote. "It failed."

On a Friday evening more than a week later, he got a surprise while watching the news on vacation in Rocky Point. It hadn't failed after all. He drove back home that Sunday and sent the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association's Myers an e-mail. A week later, he had a meeting at an outpatient medical clinic with Myers and Joe Yuhas, a public-relations professional and co-founder of the association.

"Mostly, we talked about the campaign," Humble says. "That's the extent of my communication with [Myers]. Nobody is driving this except for us."

At the same time, Humble admits he "plagiarized" from the rulebooks of other states. He'll "collude with anybody who has a good idea," he says.

Almost all the proposed rules came from outside sources, he says, and many came from Colorado. Indeed, in a November 29 e-mail, Humble tells his staff that Colorado's rules "capture the essence of what I'm looking for in terms of applicants."

The initial proposed requirements for dispensary applicants were nearly identical to Colorado's, including banning those who won't provide a surety bond or have unpaid taxes.

Ideas for the definition of a doctor-patient relationship in Arizona, which resulted in a proposal that patients visit their doctor for an ailment at least four times before obtaining a recommendation, came from New Jersey's strict rules, he says.

Humble was provided a copy of New Jersey's latest draft rules the day after he got back from Mexico, courtesy of Carolyn Short, leader of the anti-Prop 203 campaign.

"According to my lawyer, [New Jersey's rules] will be the most restrictive rules in the country," Short wrote to him.

He forwarded the e-mail and attachment to Tom Salow, the agency's administrative counsel and rule manager.

To the DHS' credit, none of the draft rules contained suggestions that Short forwarded from anti-marijuana crusader and Prescott psychiatrist Ed Gogek, who wanted the rules for pot to be identical to DEA regulations for buprenorphine, an addictive, sometimes deadly, opiate alternative. And Gogek wanted pot distributed only in non-smokable forms "unless the patient has a terminal disease and is not expected to survive more than six months."

The first round of draft rules drew more than 1,500 comments on the DHS' Web site. A lengthy letter from Myers' group protests the idea of dispensaries having to put up surety bonds, hire a medical director, be subject to surprise inspections, require four doctor visits before pot can be dispensed, or cultivate 70 percent of the marijuana they sell.

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My Voice Nation Help

The only places where you may NOT vaporize or ingest Medical marijuana are on a school bus, on the grounds of any school, or at any correctional facility.Let's be realistic though. If you're smoking medical marijuana in your backyard, and the nosey neighbors smell it, they might call the police. The police wouldn't arrest you upon showing your DHS card, but you'll likely deal with a police encounter if your neighbors assume that you're smoking marijuana recreationally. Police encounters aren't fun.

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