PHOENIX (CBS5) –
The legal battle over medical marijuana in Arizona is heating up again.
Just a day after Arizona’s Department of Health Services selected nearly 100 dispensaries around the state, a dark cloud hovers over the program.
Additional court challenges are expected which could delay, or even stop the dispensaries from opening for business.
In addition, Maricopa County attorney bill Montgomery has said that he will prosecute any dispensary that opened.
“Let me be absolutely clear, it is against the law for an individual, whether you are a qualified patient or caregiver, to grow marijuana, so stop,” Montgomery said.
Nearly two years after Arizona voters approved medical marijuana the program’s future remains uncertain, despite the fact that roughly 30,000 Arizonans have been issued ID cards permitting them to use the drug to treat debilitating conditions.
Kendric Speagle is chief development officer with Compassion First, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping patients receive medical marijuana.
He said that he knows local authorities may try and close dispensaries the minute they open, but said he’s convinced the courts are on their side and operators aren’t backing down.
“I think the vast majority of people consider it a calculated risk and believe that the medical marijuana program is worth the risks they will take in implementing the programs,” Speagle said.
The next step for dispensaries is for operators to apply for, and receive an agent license then a license to operate.
However, before that can happen state inspectors will have to approve each facility.
The process could take a couple months, or drag out much longer, Speagle said.
“They’ve done nothing but slow the process down,” said Jeff Millicent, with Compassion First. “We’re doing everything legally and we’re staying 100-percent compliant no matter what and prove we’re a positive influence on this community.”
U.S. Attorney Eric Holder has said the feds have no interest in pursuing medical marijuana operators doing business under state law.
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