Sunday, April 3, 2011

Q&A: Arizona medical marijuana rules

There have been rumors surrounding Arizona's medical-marijuana law since voters passed it in November. But now that the state health department has finalized its rules, Arizonans can weed out the truth.

The Arizona Department of Health Services on Monday released its final rules, giving an idea of what the program will look like. Proposition 203 will allow qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to receive up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from dispensaries or cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants if they live 25 miles or farther from a dispensary. There will be up to126 dispensaries throughout the state.

Arizona's medical-marijuana program officially begins April 14, when the department will begin accepting patient applications. Prospective dispensary owners can apply in June.


The program should be fully functioning by the end of the year. ADHS officials estimate that by November, there will be between 70 and 90 dispensaries operating.

Arizona is the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana. But the state's medical-marijuana law and the state health department's rules are unlike those in any other state.

Here are basics to know about Arizona's medical-pot program.

Question: How do I apply for a medical-marijuana card, and where do I get marijuana?

Answer: There will not be any dispensaries operating when the first qualifying patients get their medical-marijuana identification cards, which means patients will be able to grow their own. When dispensaries are up and running, patients or their caregivers can purchase marijuana at any dispensary.

Patients must submit their applications electronically, along with the state health department's physician-certification form. Patients can request approval to grow marijuana in their applications. If the patient's application is complete and meets all ADHS requirements, the agency will issue a card within 15 working days.

Q.: Where do I get seeds to grow my own marijuana, and what are the rules for home-growing?

A.: A dispensary can obtain its stock from other dispensaries or registered patients or their caregivers. ADHS officials said this also applies to home-growers. As for those who want to grow their own marijuana, there are no state or ADHS rules specifying the origin of the original seeds. There are no provisions in Prop. 203 specifically outlined for home-growers, but regulations still apply. Marijuana must be cultivated in an "enclosed, locked facility," which ADHS defines as an "outdoor space surrounded by solid, 10-foot walls, constructed of metal, concrete or stone, that prevent any viewing of the marijuana plants, with a one-inch thick metal gate." The marijuana must be grown in Arizona. Prop. 203 limits patients to 12 marijuana plants per patient, and a caregiver can assist up to five patients, or cultivate up to 60 plants.

Q.: Who will qualify to receive marijuana?

A.: Qualifying patients must have at least one of the following debilitating medical conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig's disease, Crohn's disease or Alzheimer's disease.

They also could qualify if they have one of the following symptoms as a result of a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or its treatment: wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or muscle spasms.

The public can petition to add a disease through the state health department.

Q.: Who can recommend marijuana?

A.: Prop. 203 defines "physician" as doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathic medicine, naturopathic physician or homeopathic physician.

Doctors must sign the ADHS physician-certification form. They must attest that they have conducted an in-person physical examination; reviewed the patient's medical records, reviewed the patient's profile on the state controlled-substances monitoring database and reviewed the patient's responses to conventional medications and therapies; agree to maintain the patient's medical record; and believes that the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from using marijuana to treat or alleviate their debilitating medical condition.

There must be a medical director on-call or on-site at each dispensary, but they will not be able to recommend marijuana. Their job is to make sure patients or their caregivers document changes in their symptoms and track their marijuana use, and dispensaries must provide educational materials, such as how to administer marijuana safely, signs of substance abuse or dependency, and possible side effects.

Q.: How do I open a dispensary?

A.: There will be between 120 and 126 dispensaries, proportionate to the number of pharmacies in the state. There will be one dispensary in each Community Health Analysis Area, a geographical breakdown of the state that ADHS previously used to track public-health statistics.

There will be a two-step dispensary application process. Dispensary agents will first apply for a registration certificate, which includes a background check and a business plan. Then they will apply for an operating license, which requires more detailed plans, such as a site plan and a certificate of occupancy.

Dispensary agents can apply online. If there is one qualified applicant for one health area, the department will approve the dispensary. But if there is more than one qualified application for the same health area, prospective dispensaries will be ranked against a set of standards that ADHS has established in its rules. If all applicants rank the same, the department will choose dispensaries randomly.

Dispensaries must get their locations cleared through local jurisdictions before they submit their applications. They are prohibited from locating within 500 feet of schools.

For more information, and the state health department's rules, go to azdhs.gov/prop203.For more questions and answers, go to politics.azcentral.com.

by Michelle Ye Hee Lee The Arizona Republic Mar. 30, 2011 06:40 PM




Q&A: Arizona medical marijuana rules

1 comment:

  1. ive been having a bit of trouble finding an answer, i will ask my doctor the next appointment, but in the meantime, what is the possibility of migraines qualifying? ive had them for years now and they can be quite... debilitating. would this qualify as chronic pain? ive had treatment for regulating serotonin levels, which i believe this may be the catalyst for my headaches, insomnia and depression. ive been on many medications as a trial-and-error treatment, but they have all failed.

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