Q&A with state health director on medical marijuana - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Q&A with state health director on medical marijuana

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Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 4:25 pm | Updated: 4:53 pm, Wed Jul 20, 2011.

State Health Director Will Humble answers questions about the new medical marijuana law.

Q: When will patients who have a qualifying medical condition be able to get the necessary ID cards allowing them to possess marijuana?

A: Probably in early April, after the state issues the rules that doctors have to follow, and sets up the tracking system.

Q: When will they be able to buy marijuana from a state-regulated dispensary?

A: That system won’t be in place until next summer or fall.

Q: What about growing your own?

A: The law allows that for those at least 25 miles from any dispensary. People anywhere in Arizona who get their cards before there are any dispensaries may also qualify.

Q: What will be tracked?

A: The state will have a database of every cultivation facility, every dispensary and every person who is issued a card by the Department of Health Services.

Q: Who will have access to that information?

A: Dispensaries will be able to get real-time verification that someone has a card. And law enforcement will be able to link to a state computer to determine whether someone they stop is legally allowed to possess marijuana.

Q: Will that information be public?

A: No, though the U.S. Drug Enforcement agency probably could subpoena the records if it wanted, as federal law still makes possession and sale of marijuana illegal.

Q: What about driving?

A: The law still makes it illegal to drive under the influence, though Humble said it will be up to law enforcement to determine exactly what that constitutes. There is no test similar to alcohol to determine a specific level of impairment.

Q: What about on-the-job drug testing?

A: Anyone with a state-issued card cannot be fired or disciplined solely because a drug test turns up positive for marijuana. That, however, does not cover those who smoke on the job or are impaired.

Q: Where can people smoke?

A: The law prohibits smoking in “public places,’’ but does not define that. As a starting point, Humble said he will use the tobacco laws — meaning no bars, restaurants and other enclosed public places. Not yet decided is whether smoking marijuana will be allowed in public places that are outdoors, such as parks.

Q: What kind of doctors will be allowed to write recommendations?

A: The law limits it to medical doctors, osteopaths, homeopaths and naturopaths.

Q: Will there be oversight of doctors?

A: Humble said he wants rules that define a doctor-patient relationship so physicians don’t just go in the business of writing recommendations for anyone who comes in the door.

Q: Can a dispensary have a doctor on site or on staff to write a recommendation?

A: There is no prohibition to that in the law. But Humble said the rules about relationships should prevent abuse.

Q: How many dispensaries will be established?

A: The law allows one for every 10 pharmacies, which Humble figures now computes out to about 125, with a requirement for at least one dispensary in each county.

Q: Can pharmacies sell the drug?

A: Humble said if they meet the other requirements of Proposition 203 they can be licensed as a dispensary. But being a pharmacy, by itself, does not qualify.

Q: What keeps cultivation facilities from selling some product off the books?

A: Humble said he wants some way to track plants from seed through cultivation, drying, transfer to a dispensary and, ultimately, sale.

Q: Will card holders from other states be able to purchase marijuana in Arizona?

A: Humble said that is still being researched.

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