Medical marijuana dispensaries rekindle debate over health benefits, legality

By Josselyn Berry

Arizona Capitol Times

As the Arizona Department of Health Services approved nearly 100 dispensary application certificates, the battle over whether medical marijuana will be distributed on a large scale in Arizona is far from over.

People in the medical and law enforcement professions, potential patients and dispensary owners, advocates and elected officials are all battling to see their side prevail. While the debate rages on, dispensary owners with certification in hand are preparing to open up shop. And depending on just how prepared they are, dispensaries could open as soon as next month, says Laura Oxley, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

One of those lucky certification holders is Tucson oncologist Don W. Hill. He strongly believes in the medical science behind marijuana.

And like several other potential dispensary operators, he’s willing to risk prosecution to reap the financial rewards. He says he needs the income because his oncology practice isn’t making money.

Hill will serve as medical director for five Tucson-area dispensaries.

The first dispensary his group is attempting to open will be in Sahuarita near Tucson. Hill’s interest in medical marijuana began after he served as a principal investigator in a medical trial testing the effects of an experimental type of marijuana on cancer patients.

The trial administered marijuana through the mucus membranes in the mouth, Hill says.

After the study ended and the company decided not to pursue FDA clearance for the drug, Hill’s patients urged him to get involved in Arizona’s medical marijuana program. In considering what to do next, he started researching the most effective ways for medical marijuana to be administered. He also polled his patients and found that a third of them were still using marijuana clandestinely.

Continued:  (subscription)

If interested in discussing medical marijuana, you can contact Co-chair of the RLG Medical Marijuana Department Ryan Hurley,

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August 2012