Things are happening lightning-fast these days on the cannabis front in Arizona, largely because of a deadline for dispensaries to open, and I am a huge fan of that.
Last August, the state held a pingpong ball lottery and issued just shy of 100 dispensary registration certificates. The clock started ticking that day, leaving operators one year to get permission to swing open the doors. Despite a lawsuit that allowed dispensaries more time, all but one met the June 7 deadline to ask for state inspection. (www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/documents/dispensaries/dispensary-registration-certificate-allocation-results.pdf)
Of 97 applications for inspection received by the state so far, 49 were filed after June 1, and 39 of those came in just under the wire on June 6 or 7. The last-minute flood forced the state to train new inspectors, just in case they need them. Seventeen inspections were scheduled as of July 9.
Also as of last week, 47 dispensaries had been looked at, poked, prodded and eventually authorized to open. We had 35 operating dispensaries across the state, six in Tucson (the latest in town is Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center, 8060 E. 22nd St., Suite 108). Check it out. I'll be heading there soon.
The 35 dispensaries cover all of the major population centers in Arizona. More than 90 percent of state residents—about 5.8 million people—live within 25 miles of a dispensary (www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/documents/dispensaries/dispensary-map.pdf), according to the state Department of Health Services, meaning that when cardholders renew their cards, they'll no longer be allowed to grow. :(
So things are happening.
It's nice to see that the state has quieted down and started letting, even helping, dispensaries open. It seems most of the resistance from Gov. Jan and Attorney Generalissimo Tom Horne has abated. The return on investment was getting pretty sad for them in the courts. I guess they got the picture, though several lawsuits remain to be adjudicated. Chief among those, IMO, is one concerning the legality of collectives. There are dozens of collectives quietly operating, mostly in the Phoenix area, and they are bravely doing it with a sword poised over their figurative necks.
In Other News
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox surfaced in the cannabis news again last week, when he met in San Francisco with famed cannabis advocate and Harborside Health Center operator Steve DeAngelo, former Microsoft manager Jamen Shivley and others to plan a global effort to decriminalize and regulate cannabis.
Fox met with Shivley a few months ago to put his weight behind the former tech geek's launch of Diego Pellicer, a national brand for marijuana. Now Fox will host the American advocates at the First International Symposium on the Legalization and Medical Use of Marijuana, which is set for July 18 to 20 in Guanajuato, Mexico. The planning meeting last week included representatives from four states and two nations, Shivley said.
"This is very much an international conversation," he said.
One key goal is to reduce the violence associated with illegal drug cartels. Tens of thousands of people have died in Mexico since the government cracked down on drug cartels in recent years. Fox got involved with U.S. cannabis advocates because of that violence.
"Every day we are losing 40 young people. Every day we're paying the toll of blood and violence," Fox said. "The cost of the war is becoming too high—too high for Mexico, too high for Latin America, and too high for the rest of the world."