Arizona Medical-Marijuana Dispensary Applications Trickle In; 15 Submitted on First Day

The state opened the door for medical-marijuana dispensary applications yesterday, receiving 15 by the end of the day.

Hopeful pot-shop owners will have until 5 p.m. on May 25 to submit the applications. Besides paying a $5,000 application fee, weed-trepeneurs must include a business plan and details on how they'll control their inventory. See the state Department of Health Services checklist for applications by clicking here.

Under Arizona law, the stores will be able to grow and sell marijuana legally for a growing population of qualified patients, now topping 28,000. After the close of the application process, DHS will evaluate the submissions and make their approvals or denials. Some stores are expected to open by late summer, offering patients a wide range of cannabis strains, pot-infused foods, tinctures and other concentrates.

DHS has begun a Web page that shows the public where the potential shops can go. Rural Arizona appears to be getting a head start. The number is small enough so far to list them here:

Sedona, Williams (2), St. Johns, Yavapai County South/Bagdad, Prescott, Paradise Valley Village (These are the names of the "CHAAs" -- the designated areas where dispensaries can go), Camelback East, Mesa West, South Mountain, Ajo, Tucson East Central

The first thing you probably noticed is what's not on the list yet. A dispensary in Ajo before Tempe? Really?

In fact, officials expect most of the 100-plus CHAAs to be filled up with applications in the next 10 days, meaning it's likely the Valley will have several dispensaries to choose from.

At the least, these first 15 pioneers demonstrate that the dispensary industry is far from dead, despite problems caused by the ongoing conflict between federal law and the wishes of state voters. Last month, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge allowed a Colorado dispensary to blow off a $500,000 loan from a Valley couple simply because marijuana is against federal law. That was just one unwelcome sign that spurred local lawyer and blogger Richard Keyt to write a "warning" for people considering investing in or running a dispensary.

Though the medical-marijuana industry has more than its fair share of obstacles, it's also necessary to serve the thousands of registered patients in the state -- many with bona fide medical conditions they use the drug to treat -- who can now possess marijuana legally under Arizona law.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern