Glendale Medical-Marijuana Dispensary Could be Open as Soon as Friday -- What Will Sheriff Arpaio Do?
Image: Phoenix New Times
A Glendale medical-marijuana dispensary will be inspected by state officials on Thursday, and is poised to be the first such establishment to open in Arizona.
If all goes well with the inspection process, which could take two or three inspectors up to six hours, the dispensary could open as soon as Friday.
A looming question is whether Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will try to prevent the dispensary from selling marijuana to some of Arizona's 33,601 qualified patients.
The Republican sheriff may feel compelled to try and stop the pot sales, given the staunch prohibitionist stance of his political ally, County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery claims that voters can not authorize the opening of medical-marijuana dispensaries because of federal pot-prohibition laws.
Despite the fact that voters approved the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which makes it legal -- among other things -- for patients to grow marijuana and dispensaries to sell it, Montgomery claims anyone doing those things can still be prosecuted. Montgomery supports the federal government over state law on this issue even though he's on the losing side of history, judging by the revolutionary votes to legalize marijuana this month in Colorado and Washington.
Montgomery and state Attorney General Tom Horne are contesting the right of a company to open a dispensary in Sun City. That dispensary, the White Mountain Health Center, has sued the county in order to force it to provide the zoning information required by state dispensary rules.
Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon has yet to rule on a motion in that case filed by Montgomery and Horne. The right-wing prosecutors seek a ban on the sales and cultivation of medical marijuana.
The Glendale dispensary will evidently have a chance to open before the judge makes his ruling.
And that will put Montgomery and his enforcer, Arpaio, on the spot.
Now that Arpaio's safely into his sixth term he doesn't have to worry about antagonizing the voters who approved the medical-marijuana law, a healthy portion of which were his own supporters. Arpaio, with Montgomery's urging (and perhaps even encouraged by Horne and Governor Jan Brewer) might try to make a move on this Glendale dispensary before it sells its first bud.
The dispensary hasn't been named by the Arizona Department of Health Services, which is legally required to keep that information secret. However, it seems likely the dispensary company will make some sort of public announcement to the news media -- also known as free advertising.
Will Humble, director of the state DHS, says the Glendale dispensary made one of four requests for an inspection that has been received by the agency, and one of only two dispensaries for which inspections are scheduled.
A Tucson dispensary will be inspected on Tuesday, Humble says. The other two dispensaries that have requested inspections, both in Tucson, will need to correct deficiencies in their paperwork before the state will schedule inspections.
"I don't want to waste my staff's time," Humble says.
To sell pot in Arizona, dispensary operators will need more than a cell phone and a scale. A nine-page pre-inspection checklist can be found on the DHS web site. The inspection will ensure the dispensary has proper inventory-control processes, plans for documenting the transportation of marijuana, proper security and more.
Harmony Duport, the agency's chief of inspection and compliance, will make the final call on whether an inspected dispensary can open or not, Humble says.
The agency has categorized inspection requirements into critical and non-critical violations. Duport won't allow a dispensary to open if it has critical violations, such as no detailed system to track the inventory, but she might allow a dispensary to open with one or more non-critical violations that can be addressed later, such as the lack of a hand-washing sink.
If the inspectors at the Glendale dispensary report back to Duport on Thursday afternoon that everything looked good, she would likely authorize the dispensary to open immediately.