Coming soon to a location near you: medical marijuana dispensary

While more than a hundred dispensaries could be authorized statewide, only 8 or 9 are expected to be licensed within the city of Tucson.

Coming soon to a location near you: medical marijuana dispensary

CREATED May 14, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Applications to operate medical pot dispensaries are rolling in to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Lawsuits and lawmakers had stalled the process, but the state is now on its way to having more than 100 dispensaries.

“I can say marijuana has saved my life. Without it, I would not be here,” said Tom Maza, who told KGUN9 News that pot has helped him deal with the side effects of HIV medicine. It has eased his mild depression and the tingling in his hands and feet.

He’s the vice-president of the local chapter for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“It would be more likely that you will know somebody that is a medical-marijuana user soon. You will see that they are not anything other than your neighbor, your family, your coworkers, your employers,” Maza said.

But not everyone can apply. The state health department requires that operators: be over 21-years-old without felony convictions in the last decade; are not police officers or doctors writing certificates for patients; and have a lot of cash.

“They put a lot of regulations in there that I think are really unnecessary. Being able to have $150,000 cash available to you at any time? I don’t know of any other business in the state that requires that,” said Greg Rogan, owner of the The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy.

He told 9 On Your Side he changed his mind about operating a dispensary because he believes the state has spent too much time dragging its feet. He also believes the federal government should reclassify pot, to allow for medical research and for pharmacies to do the dispensing.

Reporter Claire Doan asked Rogan how the dispensaries would be able to properly dispense marijuana to patients without research?

“Well, they really couldn’t be. If it were to be rescheduled and dispensed as a medication, like it should be, then it would be dispensed through a pharmacy,” Rogan responded.

The state could award certificates to dispensary operators as early as this summer.

Tucson’s zoning department has received about 75 dispensary applications, but officials expect only 7 to 9 of them to open due to geographical restrictions, such as being a certain distance away from parks and schools.

The deadline for dispensary applications is May 25.