State Capitol News
9:56 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Health Dept Swamped with Med Pot Applications

Nearly 500 organizations have submitted applications to run at least one of the state's new marijuana dispensaries. 

Under the terms of the 2010 voter-approved law, the state is entitled to have one dispensary for every 10 pharmacies. That worked out to 126 -- which just happened to be the same as the number of Community Health Analysis Areas. So the state sought applications for each area. But it turned out not all areas proved equally desirable. The number of people seeking the lone permit for the east side of Flagstaff was in the double digits. The same is true for north Tempe, west Mesa and the Estrella area. State Health Director Will Humble said some patterns make sense, like that Tempe district where, according to the latest statistics, 645 of the state's nearly 29,000 registered marijuana users live. But how do you explain nine applications to run a dispensary in Show Low? Humble said that may have to do with the fact that dispensaries also can grow marijuana, not only for their own customers but for other dispensaries.

"There may be some facilities up there that allow people to have a large cultivation facility," Humble said. "Even though there may not be a lot of revenue in terms of retail sales, the wholesale market might be desirable. And you may not need to use as much air conditioning up there to cool your grow facility."

Humble said who ultimately gets each of the permits in areas with multiple applicants will be based on an August lottery.