A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has denied attempts by Arizona medical marijuana users to lower mandatory patient and caregiver fees. Though Judge Jo Lynn Gentry did not challenge patients’ claims that the Department of Health Services collects more money than is needed to keep the program running, she maintained that the courts are unable to alter the fees for Arizona medical marijuana users.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, Capitol Media Services acquired documents that shed light on patients’ concerns. The documents show that the AZDHS collected fees totaling more than $19 million for this fiscal year, yet the department’s expenses for the same fiscal year totaled a little under $7.8 million.
Still, Gentry said she has ruled in accordance with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which only stipulates that the health department collect enough fees for all program costs. The law says nothing about preventing the department from collecting more money than the program needs.
“Arizona’s voters passed the AMMA to give legal access to medicine, not to create unnecessary financial hurdles to obtaining it,” said Sean Berberian, an attorney who plans to appeal the ruling.
According to Berberian, patients currently pay up to $150 a year in fees, while caregivers currently pay up to $200, and the state’s unwillingness to reduce fees for medical marijuana users is another instance of state-induced roadblocks imposed upon the voter-approved program, with Berberian citing litigation over qualifying conditions and pediatric dosages.
The program’s current balance, which will roll over into the next fiscal year, is more than $31 million.