The Wait Is Over

A functioning medical-marijuana dispensary is finally open in Tucson

So here I sit in my usual seat on the couch at the Epic Café, staring at my Dell computer screen and waiting. I kinda hoped that by now I wouldn't be waiting, but the state, the slow-turning wheels of justice and various forces of evil conspired to make me wait along with all of you. We're waiting for a medical marijuana dispensary, of course.

Up in Glendale, they aren't couch-locked anymore. On Dec. 6, Arizona Organix opened to long lines after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon slapped state Attorney Generalissimo Tom Horne across the face with a legal pad on which he had scribbled "Arizona just does what it wants." Arizona Organix started selling cannabis immediately after the judge's ruling. But in this neck of the desert, we wait.


"Yes, various forces did conspire to make us wait, but the waiting is almost over," said Steven Shochat, operations director for Southern Arizona Integrated Therapies, a medical marijuana dispensary that quietly opened Dec. 1 on Kolb Road near Broadway Boulevard.

But Shochat's dispensary was open only in spirit at first, because for the first week, it didn't sell any meds. Instead of swinging open its doors to the eager masses the way they did in Glendale, Southern Arizona Integrated opted to open for appointment-setting only. Tucson's first dispensary had planned to be selling meds before this issue of the Weekly went to press. In that first week, Southern Arizona Integrated registered about 200 patients, creating a figurative line out the door and around the block. Averting a physical line around the block is one reason the dispensary is selling meds by appointment only.

"They'd be lining up outside; they'd be hanging around in the parking lot. We're in a strip mall, and we have neighbors, so we're respecting them," Shochat said. The dispensary also wanted to give its staff and its computer systems a dry run. Thus far, the patients seem to be skewing toward middle age.

"Our clientele seems to be mostly older folks, from 40 to 50 and older," Shochat said, a fact he attributes to that age group's hesitation to deal with collectives or unknown caregivers. He thinks older patients will be more comfortable with dispensaries.

Despite what the rumor mill said, inventory was never an issue; Southern Arizona Integrated did not delay opening because of a lack of meds. It was ready to open last week with about six strains available. The meds are coming from caregivers' excess inventory, because the dispensary's grow operation won't be ready for about four months. Until then, the dispensary will rely on the kindness of caregivers and patients with extra meds, Shochat said.

"That's really the only option dispensaries have at this point," he said.

Southern Arizona Integrated is an upscale affair that aims for a doctor's-office vibe rather than a head shop's. There will never be any smoking paraphernalia for sale there, though the dispensary plans to advise patients on various delivery methods, including vaporizers and edibles.

"Smoking is antithetical to wellness, so we won't be promoting smoking," Shochat said.

So with the Fourth Avenue Street Fair streaming past person by person on this fine Friday afternoon, I wait. I wait for the will of the voters to finally be reality, not 100 miles away in the Great Strip Mall to our north, but right here in the Old Pueblo. I wait for a door to swing open on a place I can review for you (stay tuned). I wait for the forces of evil to abate, so we can have our cannabis and smoke it, too.


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