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As Arizona Medical Pot Industry Expands, User Fee Focus Of Debate

Arizona’s medical pot business is growing rapidly. And this week one of the state’s top dispensaries, Harvest of Arizona, merged with one of the West’s top cannabis wholesalers, Modern Flower.

As the industry expands, the focus is now back on the fee that the state’s medical marijuana users are being charged.

The $150 annual fee was set after the state’s medical marijuana law passed in 2010 and put in place to cover the costs of administering the program.  

But there are over 130,000 Arizonans signed up and a $30 million surplus in the account.

Harvest of Arizona’s Chris Hewitt believes the fee is excessive and obstructive.

"Whether it’s a high copay, high-cost deductible or cost of a medical cannabis card, any barrier that prevents our state’s residents from receiving or providing care simply seems unfair," Hewitt said.

But marijuana expert Robert Karp says, “It’s like any other tax. It’s almost impossible to get rid of. The state considers it renumeration for services provided There will come a time when someone will become very vocal and say 'why I am being charged for being sick. Why am I paying a fee to get my medicine?'”

Earlier this year, a Maricopa County judge rejected efforts by on behalf medical marijuana users to force the state to reduce the fees it charges patients. The group representing the patients has filed a notice of appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. 

Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.