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Lawsuits against the state question the cost of MMJ patient and caregiver cards

Another marijuana lawsuit lit up last week as plaintiffs sued the state and the Arizona Department of Health Services for the cost of obtaining a medical marijuana and caregiver card.

First time applicants must pay a $150 fee for a medical marijuana card and caregivers pay $200 in addition to the cost of a doctor appointment to determine eligibility with the presence of a qualifying condition. The state does offer a $75 fee to applicants on SNAP.

Patients and caregivers must renew their card yearly for the same cost as the initial application fee and doctor visit.

Since patients under the age of 18 legally must have their legal guardian as their caregiver, this turns into a $500 bill to use medical marijuana each year, and isn't covered by insurance.

While most medications can run a yearly bill much higher than this, the lack of assistance from insurance can make it burdensome for some people.

One of the plaintiffs, Yolanda Daniels, provides medical marijuana care for her 13-year-old granddaughter, who uses the drug to treat daily seizures, per an ABC15 report on the lawsuit.

The prescription has worked better than the 23 other drugs Daniels tried before, eliminating her granddaughter's seizures.

As of January, Arizona had 128 qualifying patients who were minors, making up a small percent of the state's patients, per the AZDHS medical marijuana annual report.

The $150 fee puts Arizona in the higher brackets of medical marijuana cards around the country. Oregon is the highest with a $200 fee and Nevada also charges $150, but also sticks patients with a $50 application fee, fingerprinting fee and card-making fee.

Closer to home, California charges a $66 fee for cards, but charge an additional fee based on the county in which the patient lives. Colorado charges $35, but waives fees for patients under the federal poverty line. In Maine, the cost is zero.

Arizona has about 80,000 medical marijuana patients or 13.1 per 1000 state residents, putting it above the national average of 8 patients per 1,000 state residents. This nets the state about $12 million in annual fees from patients, not including caregivers.

Arizona's Medical Marijuana Fund currently sits at about $11.5 million, per the AZDHS report. That's up $3 million from last year.

Except for Oregon and California, which bring in $15.5 million and $50 million, respectively, annually just in state fees, Arizona brings in substantially more revenue with its medical marijuana program than programs in other states.

Nevada and Colorado only net somewhere around $3 million.

Although each state has its own way of cashing in on marijuana, especially when weighing the budget boosts from recreational marijuana taxes in some states, it seems that Arizona does create more of a price barrier to obtaining medical marijuana than other states.

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