How High Can You Get? Medical Marijuana Drug Fee Is Questioned in AZ

How High Can You Get? Medical Marijuana Drug Fee Is Questioned in AZ

The usage of marijuana for medical purposes has been legalized in the state of Phoenix Arizona and Las Vegas Nevada since 2010 under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. As of September 2017, there are more than 143, 239 active marijuana card holders according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) . Recently, a lawyer has requested the Court of Appeals for the health officials to reduce the price that is being charged to medical marijuana users for the processing of the permit being issued by the state needed to buy the medical drug. Last Monday, Attorney Sean Berberian informed the Tucson Arizona Court of Appeals that the $150 that is being charged to medical marijuana users is abnormally high. According to Atty. Berberian, the said amount is more than what the ADHS needs to manage the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Atty. Berberian added that the health department is like a profit center. They could not possibly just bank the earnings that they get from the payments being made by the medical marijuana users. According to Atty. Berberian, there is evidence against Governor Doug Ducey and the previous Governor Jan Brewer that both of them has instructed the ADHS to charge the medical marijuana users high fees to discourage future users from buying the drug. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act allows medical marijuana patients who have been issued a medical marijuana ID by the state can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of the drug twice a month from dispensaries regulated by the state. These IDs that costs $150 must be renewed every year. He says that this has added a financial burden to the people he represents. The office of Governor Ducey has denied the allegations on Monday. Plaintiffs came forward and testified that some of them had to borrow money or spend less on medications to get the ID. Others, like Yolanda Daniels, had to pay more every year for the renewal of medical marijuana ID and for securing a license to be a caregiver. Press Aide, Patrick Ptak from Governor Ducey's office has stated on Monday that the office has never even attempted to direct how the ADHS should run the legalized marijuana program. The fee of $150 was still the same when Governor Ducy took office last January 2015. Six months before this issue of high medical marijuana fees was filed, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry has already denied the claims. Superior Court Judge Gentry did not deny nor did she confirm the allegations against the state collecting fees more than it should, however, she added that she is not responsible in pressing the state to reduce the cost for medical marijuana fees.  Atty. Berberian is hoping to prove to the Court of Appeals that the ruling of Superior Court Judge Gentry was not legally sound. Number don't lie, however. In last fiscal year, ADHS was shown to have collected a total amount of $24.9 million from payments being made by caregivers, patients, growers, and dispensary owners. In the same fiscal year, expenses were reported to be $11.2 million. As of this fiscal year, the ADHS was reported to have generated a revenue of $6 million compared to their expenses amounting to $2.8 million. This Monday, health officials from health services stated that the amount in the department's account is almost $38.1 million. This is three times the amount needed every year to manage the use of medical marijuana. According to Atty. Berberian, this is illegal. According to the law, the total amount of fees generated should be enough to administer and implement the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. However, Atty. Berberian says that ADHS has set a payment structure and is unwilling to review the structure when it is clear that they have more than enough in revenue. As it turns out, Will Humble, former health director of the ADHS when the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act was approved, informed the Capitol Media Servies that he set the fee of $150 based on the expected start-up cost and the assumption that 25,000 individuals will qualify. However, recent reports showed that there are more than 143,000 individuals who are state-certified to use marijuana. Humble was in the already planning to reduce the fee before he quit shortly after Governor Ducey's was elected. Cara Christ, the current ADHS director, did not pursue Humble's plan. The department's health officials have not responded when asked why the fee remained as it is despite the increase in the fund balance. Based on Atty. Berberian's opinion, the state is trying to limit the access of marijuana from Arizonans. Previous Governor Brewer tried to stop Humble from licensing marijuana dispensaries stating that the marijuana remains as an illegal drug under federal law. The argument was rejected by the state judge. Superior Court Judge Gentry rejected Atty. Berberian's claim and said the law does not specifically stop the ADHS from taking in more than what is needed. Furthermore, resetting the fees is a political question, and that is beyond the court. The fee could only be determined is to have a separate entity to administer and implement the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act instead of the ADHS. This would mean that the court would have to set policies which the  2010 law placed in the scope of the ADHS