Rules Related to the Establishment of Dispensaries

Although the final rules around security, recordkeeping, and other requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries will not be established until April 2011, there are certain requirements which are enshrined in Proposition 203 itself and can be known ahead of the time that the final rules come out. These minimal requirements may not be as restrictive as the final requirements which are published in April 2011.

* Medical marijuana dispensaries must be nonprofit. They must have bylaws which preserve their nonprofit nature, though they need not be considered tax-exempt by the IRS, nor must they be incorporated.

* The operating documents of the dispensaries must include provisions for the oversight of the dispensary and for accurate recordkeeping.

* The dispensary must have a single secure entrance and must implement appropriate security measures to deter and prevent the theft of marijuana and unauthorized access to areas containing marijuana.

* A dispensary must not acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply, or dispense marijuana for any purpose other than providing it directly to a cardholder or to a registered caregiver for the cardholder.

* All cultivation of marijuana must take place only at a locked, enclosed facility at a physical address provided to the Department of Health Services during the application process, and accessible only by dispensary agents registered with the Department.

* A dispensary can acquire marijuana from a patient of their caregiver, but only if the patient or caregiver receives no compensation for it.

* No consumption of marijuana is permitted on the property of the dispensary.

* A dispensary is subject to reasonable inspection by the Department of Health Services. The Department must first give reasonable notice of the inspection to the dispensary.

Comparison to California’s Medical Marijuana Law

The Arizona law is by no means the same as the law in California. There are certainly some differences between the two, though in some respects they are comparable. This is a comparative analysis of the two laws.


* Both laws, as a practical matter, allow for broad discretion on the part of a physician to prescribe marijuana to patients who suffer from pain. In the Arizona law, “severe and chronic pain” is the legislated standard. In the California law, any “chronic or persistent medical symptom” that substantially limits the life of the patient to conduct one or more major life activities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or that if not alleviated, will cause serious harm to the patient’s physical or mental safety, qualifies.

* Both laws have a number of illnesses which are automatically considered qualifying illnesses for the prescription of medical marijuana. These include, but are not limited to, AIDS, cachexia, cancer, glaucoma, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, and severe nausea.

* Both laws require the use of an identification card by those who have been prescribed medical marijuana, after the cardholders have gone through an initial application process in which the use of the drug has been recommended by a physician.

* Both states do not factor in the unusable portion of the marijuana plant in determining the maximum weight of marijuana that is permissible for possession by a cardholder.


* Though the rules have not been finalized, the Arizona law appears as though it will be regulated on the state level and therefore uniform across Arizona. The California law, however, is regulated significantly on the municipal level, and therefore the rules around dispensaries can vary greatly from one municipality to the next.

* The Arizona law provides a broader spectrum of people who are considered a “physician” for the purpose of prescribing medical marijuana. In California, only medical doctors and osteopaths are considered to be physicians. In Arizona, in addition to medical doctors and osteopaths, naturopaths and homeopaths will also be permitted to prescribe medical marijuana.

* In California, patients or their caregivers may grow marijuana plants in lieu of using a medical marijuana dispensary. In Arizona, patients may only grow marijuana or designate someone else to do so in lieu of visiting a dispensary on the condition that there is no dispensary operating within 25 miles of the patient’s home.

* The maximum possession limit for marijuana in California is eight ounces per patient, whereas the limit is only 2.5 ounces per patient in Arizona.

-This is not meant to be legal advice and is provided purely as an analysis of the current legislation. You should consult with an attorney to discuss these matters. We are available for consultations for this matter by appointment only and via prepayment of the consultation fee.