Number of medical marijuana dispensaries in AZ getting higher

Number of medical marijuana dispensaries in AZ getting higher
(Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - You could soon see new medical marijuana dispensaries popping up in your neighborhood.

For the first time in four years, Arizona is allowing more dispensaries to open up shop.

There are currently more than 80,000 card holders in Arizona and only 99 medical marijuana dispensaries licensed to operate in the state.

But now,  31 new shops will be allowed to open up, including three right here in Tucson.

According to the most recent report by the Arizona Department of Health Services – last year, the state collected more than $12 million dollars from cardholder and dispensary fees.

That money goes into a fund to help run the medical marijuana program in the state.

Staff at some local dispensaries said they are very limited in the amount of product they have access to.

The Downtown Dispensary in Tucson is hoping that having more shops will create an opportunity for growth and expansion of different products.

However, they want their new competition to be held to the same standards.

"The new dispensaries should have to go through all the hoops and stuff that we had to go through in the beginning and then really get their footing because otherwise, then it kind of just feeds into that stigma where some dispensaries allow some things, some dispensaries don't allow some things, when really it should be standard across the board," said Sabrina Haase with the Downtown Dispensary.

The exact location of these new dispensaries are prioritized based on patient density in a given area.

If someone applies to open a dispensary in one of the priority areas, they get first dibs on opening up shop.

"It's definitely difficult for some of our patients, I'm a patient as well so I definitely know how hard it can be if you live in an area where you have to travel 30 minutes to go to a dispensary that you like or even farther," Haase said.

Kimberly Farris, a Tucson resident, welcomes more options.

"I just think it's wonderful that they're opening more of them and it's more readily available to the public," she said.

But not everyone thinks having more dispensaries in the state is a good thing.

Some people are concerned with where these new shops will be located.

Robert Hoffman, a Tucson resident is worried about marijuana getting in the wrong hands.

"I don't think there should be any more, there's more than enough around and it's just a way of getting stuff legally and illegally," Hoffman said.

Others are worried about more people getting behind the wheel.

"My concern here is that you're going to see a lot more people that are stoned driving their cars and we have enough trouble with alcohol and how are we going to regulate this?" said Allen Kates, whose girlfriend uses marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The state is accepting applications for the next 10 days and future dispensaries could open up as soon as October, assuming they meet all the zoning requirements in the city they're in.

For a full list of dispensary priority areas and requirements, click here: http://tucsonne.ws/2a1QSbQ

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