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Concentration Complication

The Arizona DHS may be sporadically implementing rules that disrupt patients’ treatments.

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The Arizona Department of Health Services has told some dispensaries to change the way they report concentrates in a way that would vastly impact the amount of medical marijuana patients can receive every two weeks.

Specifically, the DHS has asked several dispensaries in Phoenix to report concentrate weights in the amount of bud used to create the concentrate as opposed to the weight of the concentrate itself.

That means that if a dispensary uses seven grams of marijuana flower to create .5 grams of concentrate, they must tell the DHS they sold 7 grams and the patient must count that 7 grams as part of their allotment.

While only one Phoenix-area dispensary has verified they've been asked to change the reporting method as recently as mid-February, three others have said elsewhere they've experienced the same request, one as far back as a year ago.

So far, the DHS hasn't approached any Tucson dispensaries with this new requirement. In fact, a few were surprised to hear that the DHS has been asking dispensaries to switch to this reporting method.

Changing the reporting requirement could have enormous implications on patients. Many patients rely on concentrates to get the necessary dose for their ailment. Currently, patients can buy roughly 70 grams every two weeks.

Increasing the reported amount by anywhere from eight to 14 times what is currently reported could leave patients vastly under supplied.

However, Carla Berg, chief of the Special Licensing Bureau at the DHS, said this has always been the rule.

"The rule has not changed," she said. "So, what we're looking at is probably more of a focus on what that truly means."

Berg said the reporting requirement has "come up quite often" in DHS discussions surrounding standardization, but she could not answer why dispensaries seem to be aware of one interpretation of the rule while DHS maintains another.

A lobbyist for the Arizona Dispensary Association, Joe DeMenna, said that, while he was not aware of the requirement being implemented in this way, the ADA "would be very concerned about any changes that would potentially disrupt what the patients are currently used to."

"I don't think that appears to be the dispensaries' understanding," he said. "Additionally, I think if you were to talk to each DHS representative that goes and inspects these dispensaries, they'd all have a different idea of what reporting requirements are necessary as well."

DeMenna said he thinks the DHS has a "systemic problem" in how they implement requirements for Arizona's medical marijuana program. He also noted the ADA would be interested in helping the DHS to implement standards for such rules.

A Phoenix-area dispensary owner said the DHS asked them to change reporting requirement in mid-February.

The owner raised concerns about DHS's understanding of the marijuana industry, and that implementing standards in this way could have unintended consequences.

Demitri Downing of Arizona's Marijuana Industry Trade Association said he had heard of the request to change reporting standards from only one or two dispensaries in the Phoenix area.

He said one explanation for the new focus on requirements may stem from the advent of a burgeoning industry.

"We're looking at first-generation laws and regulations," he said. "No one can expect these first set of regulations and laws are going to be perfect. That would be highly unlikely."

Downing said that MITA will look at ways to remove reporting requirements based on the "arbitrary" measure of weight from the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act entirely.

Along the same lines, the DHS is also trying to standardize edibles reporting in the same way. The difference is that reporting the weight of bud in the edible would result in a lower weight than the edible itself. Similar reporting with concentrates would have an opposite effect.

Currently, it's unclear how many dispensaries DHS has approached with this new requirement, so the extent of the impact remains unknown.

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