State Capitol News
2:40 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Health Director Humble Turns Down Doctors Request to Operate First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Phoenix, AZ – Humble acknowledged that his refusal to even accept an application comes despite a voter-approved law requiring his agency to license about 125 dispensaries around the state. And it is directly contrary to the department's own rules saying it would begin accepting requests. But Humble said the Attorney General's Office, which provides legal advice for his agency, said all applicants should be turned away until a federal court rules on whether Arizona can enforce its medical marijuana law despite federal statutes making possession of the drug a felony.

(I'm a public health official, I'm not a lawyer. So I have to rely on the lawyers to provide me with good advice on actions we should take where public health issues intersect with the law.)

Ryan Hurley, the attorney for three doctors who hope to open the Virtue Center in Scottsdale, said he cannot speculate on why state officials are stalling But he said Humble actions are both illegal and bad public policy.

(At the end of the day, what's happening is that the law voters enacted is not going into place. And the patients are going to suffer because of that.)

Hurley said he is not sure whether his next step is an appeal to a state hearing officer or going directly to court to seek an order requiring Humble to start accepting applications and licensing dispensaries as voters directed he do. The state is continuing to issue ID cards to patients who have a doctor's recommendation that they use marijuana to treat a specific condition. That card entitles them to purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from state regulated dispensaries. But Humble said his decision not to process dispensary applications does not leave these patients without recourse.

(They can grow up to 12 plants for their own medical use. It needs to be indoors and closed and locked, and inaccessible to the rest of the family. Or it could be outdoors as long as it's behind a concrete wall with a steel gate to prevent access from the neighbors.)

But Humble had no answer when asked where the patients would legally get the seeds or cuttings to start their own crop. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.