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Updated Nov 16, 2012 - 2:41 pm

Medical pot cardholders to lose own-grow rights

PHOENIX -- Arizona's approval of the state's first medical marijuana dispensary has triggered a provision that means nearly all Phoenix-area cardholders now authorized to grow their own marijuana will begin losing that right in the coming months.

New medical marijuana cards issued in most of the Phoenix area won't include the authorization to grow, Health Services Director Will Humble said Friday. The state's online medical marijuana application process will be shut down until Monday to implement that change, he said.

Arizona's voter-approved law permits medical marijuana applicants to also seek growing authorizations, but only if there is no dispensary within 25 miles.

The Glendale dispensary that was approved by state officials late Thursday is within 25 miles of nearly all of the Phoenix area. Operators plan to open the facility within a week or two, said Ryan Hurley, a lawyer for the Glendale dispensary.

The statewide program has 33,601 authorized users, including 27,794 who are authorized to cultivate, according to a Department of Health Services report.

Current growing authorizations won't be renewed when they expire. They last one year, so growing authorizations issued a year ago will begin expiring immediately, department spokeswoman Laura Oxley said.

A Tucson dispensary is to be inspected Tuesday, and Humble said approval of a license would restrict growing rights in Tucson.

The Glendale and Tucson dispensaries were among 96 applicants chosen through a lottery system for 126 geographic areas covering the state. There were no applications for some of the areas, mostly on Indian reservations and other rural areas.

Voters in 2010 approved Arizona's medical marijuana law, which authorizes the use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions such as chronic pain and cancer.

Implementation of the law's dispensary provisions was delayed by legal wrangling, and the overall legal status of the law remains unsettled.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge is considering state and county prosecutors' arguments that the state's law conflicts with federal drug laws.

Prosecutors made those arguments in opposing a would-be dispensary operator's lawsuit that challenges the county's refusal to provide zoning clearances for a dispensary in Sun City.

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