Medical Marijuana may be new to Arizona, but it’s already causing a wave of positive affects. The main boon seen by The Copper State–aside from patients legally obtaining medicine–will be job procreation, as Arizona’s imminent 126 dispensaries will lead to approximately 1,500 jobs within the industry (growers, dispensary workers, etc.), according to a recent study.
While marijuana’s detractors and haters can say what they want about lazy stoners, it’s hard to contest that a plant with healing powers creating thousands of jobs in a struggling economy is anything but a blessing. Tim Hogan, an ASU research assistant who conducted a study based on Oregon’s comparable MMJ model, has more hard proof that cannabis is more than just a way to chill. His findings, via the Arizona Daily Star, conclude that Arizona’s new economy will have a positive affect that goes way beyond just weed.
Hogan found that the industry had the potential to create not only 1,500 direct jobs for marijuana growers and dispensary employees but up to 5,000 indirect jobs at places like grocery stores.
Arizona has approximately 38,000 medical marijuana cardholders and is allowed 126 dispensaries, a percentage of the state’s operating pharmacies. Only a handful are open now.
Hogan said his study, done for the Regulated Dispensaries of Arizona Association, models only the straight economic impact of the industry instead of offering a more extensive cost-benefit analysis. The industry is small but should contribute to Arizona’s economy, he said.
“Given the size of the industry, it seems it will generate substantial income and tax revenue,” Hogan said.
In Colorado, which legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2000, dispensaries brought in nearly $200 million in sales and paid about $5.5 million in state sales tax in 2012, says that state’s Department of Revenue.
Michelle LeBas worked as an office administrator at a car dealership before becoming a dispensing agent at Bisbee’s Green Farmacy Natural Relief Clinic. She verifies that patients have valid medical marijuana cards and then teaches them about different strains of the plant.
LeBas said the dispensary, which has three employees and an on-site doctor, faced some scrutiny when it opened in late March.
“People just thought it was an excuse for stoners to do it,” she said. “But we’ve overcome that and we have people coming in here that genuinely need it. We’ve given them a completely new form of care.”
Green Farmacy Natural Relief Clinic serves about 100 patients and has provided 25 with new medical marijuana cards.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has sought to block the state’s medical marijuana law since it went into effect. He said any study that discusses medical marijuana’s possible economic benefits is inherently flawed because the state loses more in criminal prosecution.
“None of those studies that purport to show an economic impact take into account the criminal impact,” Montgomery said.
At AZ Med Testing, Cottrell said the possibility of federal prosecution or a raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration hangs over his head each day. However, he said he remains focused on doing his job well.
“Sure, they could come down and knock our door down and arrest us for this plant material,” Cottrell said. “But there’s far more dangerous non-law-abiding people who are doing a lot worse than testing plants for pesticides, and we have to believe the DEA is going after them.”
While few dispensaries currently operate in Arizona, more will continue to open this year, which means more unemployed citizens will have something to do when they wake up in the morning. The smoke continues to rise above the smog.