The state-regulated medical-marijuana dispensary industry that Arizona voters approved in late 2010 is becoming a reality, with three new retail shops opening this week.
Two dispensaries were slated to open today: One in Glendale (the city that already supports the only medical-pot facility in the Phoenix metro area), and another in Eloy. By next Monday, stores in Fort Mohave and Bisbee should be open.
Those four shops add to the seven already open across the state, records show.
Meanwhile, 11 others are in various stages of final approval for operating certificates by the Arizona Department of Health Services, which oversees the program.
This month, would-be dispensary operators in Tempe, Marana, Deer Valley and Sedona requested DHS inspections, meaning it's possible that dispensaries could open in those locations within a few weeks. Delays are also possible for those operators, depending on whether they've met their inspection criteria.
Five dispensaries requested inspections in February, and two made their requests in January, yet still haven't received their operating certificates for various reasons. We left a message for Will Humble, DHS director, and we'll let you know what we hear from him.
Susan, a biochemist who works for Jamestown Center in Eloy, says the dispensary is mainly run by pharmacists. They don't wish to give their full names at this time, she says, but their goal is to run the shop "like a retail pharmacy."
The grand opening in Eloy was pushed back to Wednesday, Susan says, at which time the dispensary will begin offering at least seven different strains of medical marijuana to qualified patients. Edible products will be available at some point.
The Greenhouse, located at 8160 West Union Hills Drive, is the new dispensary in Glendale.
As of March 12, there are 36,595 registered medical-marijuana patients in Arizona, but it seems like that number would be bound to grow once potential patients know there are plenty of state-regulated dispensaries in which to buy their medicine.
Despite being authorized by more than 841,000 Arizona voters in November of 2010, the dispensaries have been a long time in coming due to Governor Jan Brewer's unilateral move to derail the process. In January of 2012, a judge ordered Brewer to stop thwarting the wishes of voters and let the dispensaries roll. In November, Arizona Organix of Glendale achieved history by becoming the first state-authorized medical-pot retail shop in Arizona.
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Without the dispensaries, patients have legally grown their own -- or joined one of the local cannabis clubs, which act as unauthorized dispensaries by charging high membership fees and giving away "free" medicine. The clubs' business model has never been declared illegal, but we've written about several club owners and employees who have received probation following raids by police on their businesses.
A group of authorized dispensary operators told the State Legislature in January that they'd prefer to see those cannabis clubs shut down.
But that "problem" could be going away on its own:
In a few months, those cannabis clubs are going to have an awful lot of competition.