How Recreational Legalization Affects Medical Marijuana Users in Arizona


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Arizona celebrated its first month of recreational marijuana sales yesterday and there is plenty to cheer about. More than 100 medical marijuana dispensaries have been approved for the sale of recreational marijuana to customers age 21 and older, and business is booming. Drive past a Valley pharmacy in the middle of the day and there’s a good chance you’ll still find a line at the door.

For longtime marijuana buyers in Arizona – that is, MMJ patients – there was less to celebrate. Ironically, many of them feel that legalization has made marijuana less accessible to them.

One point of criticism: these lines.

“I shouldn’t see young, able-bodied people coming in and out of a pharmacy with people in wheelchairs and strollers waiting in line,” said James Carter, a medical marijuana patient at Mesa.

Some pharmacies, still adjusting to the balance between medical and recreational sales, have started implementing new guidelines aimed at giving priority to patients. Many harvest locations have a special window for medical patients. Territory Dispensary has implemented a cashless prepayment system for online orders called TreezPay, which speeds up the pickup process and reduces the time customers spend in-store. Raul Molina, COO of The Mint Pharmacies, recently told Fox 10 that their goal is to care for medical patients in 10 minutes and recreational patients in 30 minutes.

The Herbal Wellness Center has set up patient-specific shopping hours from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily. Only people with a health card can shop during these times. The pharmacy opens to the general public at lunchtime. The pharmacy also offers online orders exclusively for patients and daily medical patient specials.

“We’re trying to take care of it [patients] First, you have a side of the pharmacy that deals with patients, ”said Scott Pierce, director of retail at the Herbal Wellness Center. “We just want to make sure that the medical patients are getting their medication and that those who come to the recreational sales have a great experience, too.”

Another complaint: the price specials that have long made medical marijuana affordable to patients have disappeared from local pharmacy menus.

“Some of the more generous first-time patient offers are no longer available,” says Oscar Hernandez, a local MMJ patient.

Gone are some other discounts too, such as birthday, veteran, and senior discounts. Hernandez also noted that pharmacies often offered half and full ounces in bulk at significantly reduced prices, but these offerings have been harder to find since recreational sales began.

Some of these specials have crept back onto menus over the past week, including major deals at Sol Flower and other non-first-time deals at SWC Tempe. SWC Arizona’s Krystal Poleon says, “We are committed to making the medical needs of our consumers the top priority.”

However, access to food remains a problem for some. Under the new Arizona regulations, recreational foods cannot contain more than 10 mg per piece and a package of food cannot contain more than 100 mg.

Michelle Mastin is worried about her mother, who is in chronic pain. She uses highly potent medicinal foods (200 mg gums) for sleep and relief. However, she fears that pharmacies may shift their focus to 100 mg foods as these can be sold both medicinally and for recreational use, leaving her mother unable to access the more powerful medicine she can rely on.

“I think medical patients fear that the market will become saturated and that some of their trusted products will be lost in the water,” said Andrew Barnes, an Arizona MMJ patient for five years.

At the same time, there is hope that new options for patients can be added to the Arizona market.

“I hope there will be more access to different kinds of things like there are in Colorado,” says Mastin. “I would be very interested to try other things.” [my mother] to help her with pain management throughout the day. I would hope that now that it is legal, more companies are bringing new products to pharmacies. “

Pierce of the Herbal Wellness Center says MMJ patients shouldn’t be unduly worried about hiccups for the first month.

“Our priority will always be the medical patients – they are the ones who have been with us from the start,” he says. “We made it our business to make it a priority.”

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