Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk announced in dramatic fashion last July that federal authorities would shut down every medical-marijuana dispensary in Arizona "as it opens."
Polk made the bad prediction in a letter she penned and sent to the governor after getting several other county attorneys to sign it. We checked into her assertion and reported to you at the time that Polk's claim appeared to be nonsense and was, in fact, a major exaggeration of something she'd been told by a retired drug agent.
How wrong was Polk's info?
As of today, there are 16 retail shops legally selling medical marijuana under Arizona law.
That's five more than were opened in late March, when we wrote of how the dispensary industry was taking off, finally. The first, Arizona Organix of Glendale, opened in November.
Now, there are legal weed stores for Arizona's roughly 40,000 qualified patients in Glendale, Phoenix, Mesa, Eloy, Wickenburg, Quartzsite, Globe, and many other towns and cities.
An additional 29 other shops are nearing their final inspection process, records from the Arizona Department of Health Services show, meaning those places will likely be open in a matter of weeks.
Another 25 would-be shops have requested dispensary applications but have not yet asked for inspections by DHS, the April 12 records show.
The lottery held last year by DHS granted 99 businesses the right to apply to open a dispensary in pre-planned geographic areas around the state.
Would-be pot-shop operators who won one of those "CHAA" areas in the lottery must request an inspection for their stores by DHS by June 8. Those who fail to do this will not be able to open a dispensary in the foreseeable future, and those "CHAAs" will go dark -- for a while, anyway.
Meanwhile, many "unauthorized" dispensaries, a.k.a. cannabis clubs, seem to be operating without much interference from authorities. Members of the Regulated Dispensaries of Arizona Association, have been urging law enforcement agencies to shut down the clubs, which provide marijuana for patients but aren't overseen by the state DHS. Patients may decide the issue by choosing to shop only at state-authorized dispensaries -- especially if the authorized shops can price their product more competitively.
So, Polk was wrong. Which isn't surprising considering that she exaggerated the quality of her information.
Arizona U.S. Attorney John Leonardo did not shut these legal Arizona dispensaries down as soon as they opened. Apparently, he has no imminent plans to do so.
Whether the feds ultimately do shut down Arizona's burgeoning dispensary industry is still an open question.
For now, with 16 dispensaries and many more on the way, the industry is beginning to bloom.