Are Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Fees Illegally High?

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Attorney Sean Berberian believes that’s exactly the case.

Arizonans are charged an annual fee of $150 for their Arizona “green card” and Berberian wants the Court of Appeals to answer one lingering question: Why is the AZ Department of Health utilizing their medical marijuana program as a profit center?

On Monday, Sean Berberian argued the state’s medical marijuana program is unlawfully charging registered patients an excessive fee for access to medical marijuana.

Legalized in 2010, Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act allows qualifying patients to purchase their medicine from a state-sanctioned dispensary. The annual fee of $150 was specifically intended to fund the state’s oversight and regulation of its medical marijuana businesses, and according to Berberian, disallowed the Arizona Department of Health (ADHS) from banking any profit.

Citing evidence that Gov. Doug Ducey and former Gov. Jan Brewer instructed ADHS to maintain its elevated fee structure, Tucson.com has revealed, “as of Monday, health officials said the balance in the account is nearly $38.1 million.”

Berberian believes ADHS has knowingly established a punitive fee structure and refused to revisit the profitable oversight.

In 2016, there were approximately 143,000 registered patients in Arizona who paid $150 to obtain their medical marijuana cards, which generated approximately $25 million. A tidy sum for the state, Arizona’s medical marijuana program currently costs $11.2 million to operate.

Will Humble – Arizona’s health director when Proposition 203 passed in 2010 – informed Capital Media Services the $150 fee was initially set based on the number of projected participants. Lowballed at just 25,000 applicants, the initial estimate of Arizona’s would-be patients was seriously off the mark.

Proposition 203, Arizona’s voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, instructs the total amount of all fees “shall generate revenues sufficient to implement and administer” Arizona’s medical marijuana program – not stuff the state’s coffers.

Considered a restrictive scheme by Berberian, the Arizona-based attorney noted, “At every turn, the state and our governor has tried to prevent Arizonans from getting access.”

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Born in Long Beach, raised on the central coast: I surf, dab, burn, and blog – though not necessarily in that order. I’m a husband, a father and a lifelong consumer of connoisseur grade weed. I don’t drink alcohol or consume any other “drugs.” I consider myself to be living proof that weed is not a gateway drug. If it were, I’d be in some serious trouble. Instead, as a 50-year-old ex-realtor that has been smoking weed for nearly 80% of my life (just did the math) … I can only say, marijuana is safer than prescription pills or alcohol could ever hope to be for calming what stirs the savage beast.

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