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The Arizona Department of Health Services released its final medical marijuana rules March 28, 2011, implementing the Medical Marijuana Act passed by voters last November.
The state’s program began April 14, when the Department of Health Services started accepting patient applications. The program is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.
The laws permits qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to receive up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from dispensaries or to cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants if they live 25 miles or more from a dispensary. Patients must submit certifications from doctors on department-provided forms. A personal medical marijuana card costs $150.
Employers are forbidden from discriminating against qualifying medical marijuana patients on the basis of their marijuana use unless doing so is required for the employer to receive benefits under federal law. Employers may not penalize employees who are qualified patients for a positive marijuana drug test unless the employee used or possessed the drug on the employment premises or during work hours. Using medical marijuana is prohibited on public transportation and in public places.
The final rules were adopted after reviewing more than 1,450 electronic comments on the draft rules. The department also held public forums in Flagstaff, Tempe and Tucson during which residents gave their input.
The rules provide for one medical marijuana dispensary in each of 126 Community Health Analysis Areas. Prior to receiving an operating license, dispensary applicants must undergo a background check and provide detailed operating plans, including projected expenditures before and after they are operational and projected revenues. A maximum of one dispensary will be approved for each health area in the state. Applications for operating licenses will be accepted beginning June 1.
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