Medical marijuana has come to the forefront of several legal battles, both local and federal.

The most significant is the state’s lawsuit against the U.S. government — a suit that is holding up applications to open medical marijuana dispensaries.

The lawsuit lists the plaintiffs as Gov. Jan Brewer, Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), and Robert Halliday, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. It was filed on May 27, days before the state was to begin processing dispensary applications.

That hasn’t stopped potential applicants from trying to get their pot shops off the ground.

Recently, the city of Phoenix blocked an application for a variance that would have allowed a medical marijuana dispensary at 4611 E. Chandler Blvd.

The variance was needed due to the fact the location would have been less than 1,320 feet from a school, as declared by the state law that was approved by voters in November of last year.

Summit School of Ahwatukee is within that range and Horizon Community Learning Center and St. John Bosco Interparish School both sit within half a mile of the location.

Variances have been granted in other municipalities and the lawyer for the group looking to open the dispensary said they are weighing their options and might appeal the decision.

“We have worked with the city and taken all the guidance that we were given, particularly in choosing a location,” Steven White, of White Berberian PLC, said to the Ahwatukee Foothills News in an email. “Ultimately, my client will decide the next step if we file an appeal and that appeal is denied. At that point, essentially, we’ll either have to drop it or sue the city. Filing a lawsuit is always a last option, but sometimes people are left with no other reasonable choices. I sincerely hope that this isn’t one of those cases.”

As hopeful dispensary operators wait out the decision, medical marijuana patients are able to grow and utilize their own pot if they have a medical marijuana card that also authorizes them to grow.

A spokeswoman for the ADHS said that about 75 percent of the roughly 5,600 authorized users are allowed to grow their own pot but that number is expected to rise.

The reason behind that is the earlier applicants may have decided not to do so because they were expecting dispensaries to open on the proposed schedule.

Ahwatukee Foothills had 55 medical marijuana card holders as of June 15. Some other interesting numbers for the first month since the ADHS has been issuing cards - 75 percent are male, the largest group at nearly 41 percent are over 51 years old, and 85 percent list their condition as “chronic pain.”

Some of the other conditions and their percentages are as follows - muscle spasms account for 15 percent, nausea 13.5 percent, hepatitis C 7 percent and cancer 5.4 percent, according to a report by the ADHS.

Stay tuned to the AFN for more medical marijuana news.

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