Arizona Organix in Glendale Becomes First Medical-Marijuana Dispensary Approved by State; Owners Contemplate When to Open

Arizona Organix at 5301 West Glendale Avenue has become the first medical-marijuana dispensary to be approved by the state.

Inspectors with the Arizona Department of Health Services checked the place out today and approved its certification to operate, says Will Humble, DHS director.

The store can now begin selling marijuana to qualified patients legally, under Arizona law.

Unfortunately for Arizona's 30,000-plus qualified patients, though, the store has no plan to open immediately.

See also: - Glendale Medical-Marijuana Dispensary Could be Open as Soon as Friday — What Will Sheriff Arpaio Do? - Inside an Arizona Medical Marijuana Collective (Slideshow)

Ryan Wells, the director of Arizona Organix, says he and two other owners of the business are still trying to figure out when to begin retail operations.

As of now, the company doesn't enough product on hand to satisfy the expected high demand, Wells says.

The dispensary location has no product at all at the Glendale Avenue location, Wells maintains. Nor does it have a cultivation site set up.

Wells says he others affiliated with the new dispensary have previously been registered medical-marijuana caregivers under Arizona law, and they still have some of the weed they grew that could now be legally sold. But it doesn't make good business sense to announce an opening, only to sell out and have to close until they obtain more marijuana.

Under state law, patients and caregivers could donate marijuana to the dispensary — but they can't be paid for it. Obviously, that's going to limit donations.

Glendale, which had previously approved the dispensary to operate within the city, doesn't allow dispensaries to cultivate in the same location as the retail sales operation.

Arizona Organix has found it difficult to nail down an off-site location due to the fears of landlords and the threat of federal action, Wells says, but the company is close to signing a deal to rent space for the growing facility.

When that happens, it will still take a few weeks (perhaps eight or more) to grow seeds into mature plants.

What this all boils down to is that "it could be anywhere between two weeks and two months" that the Glendale dispensary opens, Wells says.

Wells says he and the other owners are excited, even as they're a bit nervous over the unsettled legal questions. Not only do they have the feds to worry about, but local right-wingers who want marijuana to stay illegal have challenged Arizona's voter-approved law in court. A ruling in the case, which pits a would-be Sun City dispensary against Arizona's Attorney General, Tom Horne, and the Maricopa County Attorney, Bill Montgomery, could come any day.

Getting to this stage has been a two-year ordeal with many bumps along the way, Wells says.

"This has been such a long road for us, a lot of my feelings are pretty well dulled by this point," he says. Still, "it does feel great" to finally have gotten that state approval.

DHS is scheduled to inspect a Tucson dispensary on Tuesday.

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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.