Arizona's Legal Dispensaries Sold More Than 2.5 Tons of Medical Marijuana in First Year

Arizona's medical-marijuana dispensaries sold more than 2.5 tons of marijuana in the past 12 months, officials say.

From December 6th, 2012 -- opening day for the state's first state-authorized dispensary, Arizona Organix -- to December 9th of this year, 5,279 pounds of marijuana were sold, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The health department provided the numbers this morning following a New Times records request made last month.

See also: - Arizona Medical-Marijuana List of 48 State-Authorized Dispensaries Released by DHS

Online records show 77 dispensaries are now open across Arizona, with a few more scheduled for openings in early 2014. Voters approved Arizona's medical-marijuana law, which authorizes the shops, in a 2010 ballot initiative.

A total of 376,231 transactions took place in the given time-frame, the DHS says, resulting in the sale of 84,456.08 ounces -- or about 5,279 pounds of marijuana. (A further breakdown of the weight into buds and other preparations of marijuana, such as the ingredients of medical-marijuana-infused food and drinks, wasn't available.) Considering that most of the 77 shops weren't open until the last few months, it's an impressive number.

The figure also seems to indicate that the state's 40,000-or-so medical-marijuana patients so far aren't buying anywhere their statutory limit of five ounces a month. If the patients were buying the max, (perhaps to sell it elsewhere), that would be 200,000 ounces sold each month. Of course, the program is still getting started -- the 2014 total will be more reflective of the fully built-out dispensary program. Plus, it's possible that elderly sick folks are not buying as much as the 18-30 crowd that make up 25 percent of the total patients.

Whatever the patients' reason for their purchase, the program is obviously taking at least a small bite out of crime.

That's 2.5 tons that wasn't smuggled over the international border or grown by black-market farmers. The tonnage and total transactions also represent crimes that didn't require expensive investigations, arrests, jailings and court dates, giving police, prosecutors and the courts more time to deal with real crime.

Legalizing marijuana outright in Arizona, as some would like to do, would have an even greater positive effect on the criminal justice system.

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

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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