Attorney claims Arizona’s fee for medical cannabis patients is too high


Sara Tiradossi

Lawyer Sean Berberian claimed this week that the Arizona medical cannabis program is illegally charging registered patients an excessive fee for access to the state-approved medicine.

The price of a permit that allows patients to purchase legal cannabis from a dispensary has been an annual fee of $150 since Arizona legalized medical cannabis in 2010.

According to Berberian, the fee is far more than the state Department of Health Services needs to administer the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

With 143,000 patients currently participating in the program and paying annual dues, Berberian said the state is charging too much for access to medical cannabis.

“What the Department of Health Services has done is set a fee structure and refused to reexamine or revisit the fee structure when it’s quite obvious that the fees they set are far beyond what is sufficient to implement and administer that chapter,” Berberian said.

Research from the Capitol Media Services shows in fact that the Department of Health Services collected $24.9 million, while spending only $11.2 million administering the state’s medical cannabis program.

Since Berberian’s first attempt at reducing fees in May of this year, he is now trying to convince the state’s Court of Appeals that regulators are purposely using high fees to block access to medical cannabis.

“This is part and parcel of the state’s ongoing effort to try to limit Arizonans from getting access to legal medical marijuana,” Berberian said. “At every turn, the state and our governor has tried to prevent Arizonans from getting access.”

In support of his actions, Berberian has also presented stories of two of his clients, both of whom need access to the Arizona medical cannabis, including Lisa Becker, who uses medical cannabis to help her nausea, and must seek assistance from friends and family to be able to afford the fee; and Yoland Daniels, who instead needs cannabis extracts to help her granddaughter avoid epileptic seizures and must pay a higher annual caregiver fee of $200, in addition to the yearly $150 permit costs.