Dispensary Agent Collaborative

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Last Wednesday we held a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Collaborative.  It was modeled after last year’s successful ADVICE Collaborative, which brought dialysis facilities together to share best practices and engage in a dialog to reduce infection control violations and improve patient care.  The goal of the meeting was to avoid future deficiencies by ensuring that dispensaries understand our expectations and to help us better understand their challenges. 

The Dispensary Collaborative had a great turnout, with almost 150 dispensary agents, board members, and medical directors. The all-day meeting covered dispensary inspection results, patient and dispensary agent educational resources offered by the Arizona Poison Control, the administrative rules process, financial audit requirements (including the difference between profit and non-profit entities), and our computerized Point of Sale system that’s used by dispensaries to verify the status of cards and record marijuana transactions. 

Overall, the input and suggestions that we received from the dispensaries was constructive and will be helpful as we continue to move forward with building a solid relationship with our dispensary stakeholders.

Medical Marijuana News

Friday, January 17th, 2014

We published our mid-year update of the medical marijuana annual report this week.  It contains different data than our  standard annual report in that we’re reporting aggregate dispensary transaction data.  In the report you’ll see that there were about 422,000 transactions made at dispensaries in ‘13 among the 40,000 patients (about 10 transactions/patient/year).   Dispensaries sold 2,700 Kg of marijuana in ’13 for an estimated gross revenue stream of about $33M.  Transaction data is broken down by age group as well.   Fridays are the busiest day of the week at dispensaries.  

In other news, we completed our review of the latest petitions to add debilitating medical conditions to the official list this week.  As you recall, the AZ Medical Marijuana Act charges us to periodically accept petitions to add new medical conditions to the list that qualifies folks for a card.  Last summer we accepted petitions from the public to add new medical conditions for PTSD, depression and migraines. We also received a lot of informal comments regarding adding PTSD; depression & migraines and heard in person testimony from dozens of folks at our public hearing in October. 

We also contracted with the U of A College of Public Health to do an evidence review of published scientific studies.  You can see the UA’s analyses for depression; migraine headaches and PTSD on our petition website.  Our ADHS Medical Advisory Committee reviewed and analyzed the data, as in past submission periods, and provided me with recommendations earlier this week. 

Our literature review found limited scientific evidence to support permanently adding the petitioned conditions to the statutory list of qualifying debilitating conditions identified in the Act.  I didn’t approve the petitions because of the lack of published data regarding the risks and benefits of using Cannabis to treat or provide relief for the petitioned conditions.  We’ll be accepting petitions again January 27 – 31, 2014.

Medical Marijuana Rulemaking Underway

Friday, October 11th, 2013

A few weeks ago a Superior Court judge decided that a portion of our medical marijuana regulations are unreasonable because they lack a formal appeal process for dispensary registration certificate holders who don’t earn their approval to operate within 1 year.  Because of the  ruling, we approved renewal requests for all the current dispensaries (open or not).  The ruling also means we need to modify our rules.

Now that we’ve completed the overhaul of our medical, skilled nursing, assisted living and behavioral health rules (18 Articles in all)- we’ve turned our attention toward amending our medical marijuana rules.  We began that process this week by scoping out modifications to the rules for renewing dispensary certificates.  We’re also planning to make some modifications to the “25-mile rule” (measuring by road rather than “as the crow flies”), eliminating the former “year 2” selection criteria for dispensaries by focusing on vacant CHAAs rather than patient density, and removing the lifetime disqualification for those applicants that receive a dispensary registration certificate but don’t execute.

Once we have an initial “straw-man” draft, we’ll solicit public comment and have oral proceedings just like we did for the original rules in 2011.  We think we’ll be able to work through the process and establish the modified rules by the Fall of 2014.