‘Medical Director’ Required at Pot Dispensaries, Arizona Judge Rules

Medical-marjiuana dispensaries will have to employ a medical director at their operations, as state health officials require, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge has ruled. The non-profits could begin opening this summer.

Judge Richard Gama’s May 1 decision is an important one because it could prevent abuse of medical marijuana, said Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“This is a really important component of the program because without it, over time, it would’ve evolved into each dispensary just moving product,” Humble said.

“But if you have a medical director, you have someone who’s invested time and money in that license, they’ve got that license to protect, and they need to act in an ethical way and make sure their organization works ethically.”

Dispensary medical directors must train dispensary agents at least once a year, develop guidelines for informing patients about the risks, benefits and side effects of medical marijuana, and know how to recognize signs and symptoms of substance abuse.

Would-be dispensary owner Gerald Gaines sued last year over the state’s dispensary regulations and the governor’s failure to fully implement the program. In January, Gama ruled in favor of Gaines, saying the state cannot restrict who runs medical-marijuana dispensaries based on where they live or their financial history.

The state is moving ahead with implementing the program and later this month will begin to accept applications for dispensaries. Also, state officials will hold a public hearing on May 25 to consider whether to add post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, depression and anxiety as conditions that qualify for medical-marijuana certification.

Gaines filed an amended complaint to challenge the state’s requirement on the medical-director requirement, saying they were unnecessary. “It’s not the exact ruling we wanted,” Gaines said Tuesday, saying he may again challenge the requirement.

Under the voter-approved law, state workers issue special ID cards to people with certain medical conditions, authorizing patients to use marijuana. Proposition 203 also allows the state health department to issue permits for up to 126 marijuana dispensaries across the state. State officials set up the rules for the program.

Health officials will begin accepting dispensary applications Monday through May 25.

More than 22,200 people have received permission to smoke, eat or otherwise ingest medical marijuana to ease their ailments.

– Article orginally from The Arizona Republic.