An air-blown bingo machine picked the winners. Bingo was the mechanism that answered the call for random selection and process transparency. The winners picked are 68 medical marijuana dispensaries out of 404 applicants.
Arizona Law on Medical Marijuana
Arizona citizens voted to legalize medical marijuana. The voters created 126 medical marijuana dispensary districts. 27 districts had no applicants. Of the remaining 99 districts, 29 had only one applicant, alleviating the necessity of a drawing. In addition to the 68 dispensaries chosen through the bingo method, two districts are currently embroiled in court matters, presumably concerning federal pre-emption issues. The pending cases preclude an allocation of dispensaries for those two districts.
The number of applicants was greatest in the areas of Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Coolidge. The leading number was Yavapai County’s 14 applicants. At present, almost 30,000 patients are availing themselves of the Arizona medical marijuana law. Their permits entitle them to grow their own pot. If a dispensary begins to operate within a radius of 25 miles from their homes, then the individual permits will become null and void. Health Services Director Will Humble has confirmed that the 99 dispensaries are located within 25 miles of 98% of the state’s citizens. An aspect of the Arizona marijuana law protects the identity of dispensaries. However, the operators are not prevented from advertising or otherwise identifying themselves.
Pre-emption by Federal Law
Normally, federal law pre-empts state laws. Arizona legalization of medical marijuana has, however, proven to be an exception to date. Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne have recognized the overriding pre-emption issue. Having filed and lost various court cases regarding the legality of the Arizona marijuana law, Governor Brewer has now allowed the process of dispensary selection to go forward. The nonbinding opinion that was issued by Attorney General Horne concluded that indeed the 2010 Arizona law is pre-empted by the federal prohibition of marijuana. However, Horne conceded that the bingo drawings are legal, as the selection of dispensaries does not effectuate the actual distribution of marijuana.
Horne has expressed his view that the judicial system will most certainly close down the distribution process through at least one of the two remaining court cases. That legal matter involves the Maricopa County district. However, the attorney general fails to take into consideration that in a prior case, one judge refused entirely to rule on the pre-emption issue. An attorney for the dispensaries, Ryan Hurley, commented that Horne may very well be incorrect in his assessment of the legal situation. As Hurley has stated, the distribution of medical marijuana is currently the law in Arizona, which has a vested interest in the health of its citizens.
Bingo by Design
Health Services Director Humble recently commented that the dispensary certification is only the beginning of a paperwork and inspection process that may take up to a year. The last step will entail a license to operate. However, he expects that some dispensaries, with presently advanced preparations, will be up and running within the month. Humble has said that the wording of the marijuana law itself was compiled from similar laws of other states. However, he believes that the use of the bingo machine in the selection process is probably a one-of-a-kind concept.