May 31, 2011

Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Industry Trapped in Limbo, Thanks to Governor

This was supposed to be a big week for Arizona’s fledgling medical marijuana industry. The permit process for new dispensaries was officially set to begin this Wednesday – setting the gears in motion and paving the way for medical pot centers to open up in the state.

Notice how I’ve been using the past tense?

In the eleventh hour, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order to halt the permit process in conjunction with a coordinated move by the state’s attorney general to file a federal lawsuit seeking clarification on the legality of Arizona’s medical marijuana law . It seems that the state won’t begin issuing permits – or even start the approval process – until it gets a clear answer on “whether state employees could run into legal trouble under federal law, which doesn’t recognize the medical distinction,” according to this report in Newser.

That’s left would-be dispensary owners, suppliers and patients who paid for medical marijuana cards – and were excited about the possibility of a new drug for their pain – in limbo.

I can’t imagine that we will see a resolution to this in the near future. Many observers seem to think it’s a tactic by the governor to find justification to prevent dispensaries from opening and essentially squash the industry entirely.

While it’s understandable that the governor wants some clear direction from the federal government – which still bans medical marijuana – this last-minute move could indeed cripple the industry in Arizona. I feel bad for the entrepreneurs who spent a good deal of time, effort and money gearing up for this week. Some of them could be devastated financially if the permit process doesn’t begin soon, as they likely bypassed other opportunities to prepare to open their own stores.

It just shows how unpredictable – and unfair – this industry can be.

Chris Walsh is the editor of Medical Marijuana Business Daily

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