Customers with valid Arizona issued medical marijuana cards wait for the opening of the Arizona Organix, the first legal medical marijuana dispensary to open in Arizona, Thursday Dec. 6, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. Several dozen waited outside for the Glendale dispensary to open, the first among 96 applicants chosen through a lottery system for 126 geographic areas across the state.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Charles Everett says he’s been in chronic pain for eight years since being robbed and attacked in an assault that shattered his femur, requiring 11 titanium rods to put it back together.
Smoking marijuana, the musician says, dulls the discomfort, allowing him to live more of a normal life.
The 56-year-old, wearing jeans and a tie-dye Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, was among dozens of other pot smokers who lined up Thursday morning in Glendale for the grand opening of Arizona’s first legal medical marijuana dispensary.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Everett said, displaying an X-ray of his injury. “I don’t like to depend on prescription narcotics. … This is God’s green earth right here. It’s a great day for Democracy.”
It’s been about two years since Arizona voters approved the use of marijuana to treat certain health problems such as chronic pain and cancer. The issue has since been tied up in the courts as state and Maricopa County prosecutors argued the law usurps federal drug statutes, but a judge earlier this week disagreed, clearing the way for the Glendale dispensary and others to open.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he plans to appeal the ruling.
“The marijuana dispensary that opened in Glendale today does so in violation of federal law and, at best, under a cloud of uncertainty,” Montgomery said in a statement Thursday. “Accordingly, the individuals operating this site are gambling with their money and their liberty.”
The Glendale dispensary is among 96 applicants chosen through a lottery system for 126 geographic areas across the state.
Arizona Organix co-owner Bill Myer said he had been waiting until the court ruling to open his dispensary, given the uncertainties of the law and legal challenges.
“It’s a very historic day for us and for the patients of Arizona,” he said while mingling with the crowd in his shop.
Dozens of people flowed through the door as it opened at 10 a.m., a small line stretching around the side of the building located beside a row of other shops, including an antiques store and tattoo parlor.
Myer, 65, is a former Wall Street trader who said he got into the business after seeing how smoking marijuana benefited a sick relative.
He said he expects to make a “reasonably decent living” with the dispensary, and plans keep it open at least 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
“If you need medicine on Christmas Day, come and get it,” he said.
The dispensary is set up similarly to a doctor’s office with a waiting room and a flat screen television hung on the wall that was tuned to C-SPAN. Patients walk up to a bulletproof window and show their state-issued cards to a woman sitting behind a desk. She checks their status on a computer before approving them to walk through another door into a room where the marijuana is stored.
Myer said patients then talk to consultants privately about their ailments and discuss the options for different strains of marijuana that offer varying effects.
“Woohoo!” shouted Dennis Cox as he walked out with his marijuana.
“I’m excited,” said the 58-year-old iron worker who said he suffers from nausea. “This is my prescription medication.”
Michael Cardenas, 19, works at a nearby grocery store and said he suffers from insomnia and chronic pain after a knee surgery.
“We’re making history here,” he said, pulling out a small plastic bag of marijuana. “It’s some Purple Urkle, mmmmm. … This stuff helps me sleep at night.”
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have approved medicinal marijuana use in some form. Washington and Colorado became the first states to vote to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21 without the medicinal requirements in other states. Both measures call for setting up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores.
The law took effect in Washington on Thursday. Colorado’s law is set to take effect by Jan. 5.