Last week, the Arizona Department of Health Services issued final regulations implementing the State’s medical marijuana program, which was approved by voters in last November’s general election.
In an effort to avoid some of the growing pains Colorado had to address in 2009 and 2010, Arizona will require a well-developed relationship between a physician and a medical marijuana patient, as well as between a patient and a dispensary. Arizona will permit only a limited number of dispensaries to operate, but will allow patients to obtain marijuana from any dispensary they wish. This differs from Colorado’s model, which requires patients to select a dispensary.
Arizona will also allow registered patients to grow their own marijuana if a dispensary is not operating within 25 miles of their home. Since no dispensaries will be operating when the first patients obtain approval to use medical marijuana, all of those patients who request permission to grow their own marijuana will be approved. Apparently, they will maintain the ability to grow their own marijuana, even if a dispensary subsequently opens up within the prescribed 25-mile radius.
The new regulations do nothing to assuage fears among employers that they are powerless to prevent their employees from using marijuana. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) states that an employer cannot penalize a lawfully registered patient for a positive marijuana test, unless the patient used, possessed, or was impaired by marijuana on the employment premises or during hours of employment.
“Arizona employers are reasonably alarmed at the employment portions of the AMMA,” says MSEC attorney Curtis Graves. “The State could have allowed employers to conduct present-impairment drug testing of employees, as Colorado is attempting to do in the criminal context with HB 1261. Unfortunately, Arizona lawmakers failed to seize this golden opportunity.”