Sarah Climaco

Arizona attorney Sean Berberian is asking the state Court of Appeals to force the Department of Health to reduce the $150 identification card fee patients must pay to access the state’s medical cannabis program, according to a Capitol Media Services report. Berberian argues that the fee is more than the Health Department needs to administer the program and that Gov. Doug Ducey and his predecessor Jan Brewer told officials to keep the fees high to deter patient enrollment.

Ducey’s office denied the claim.

“There have been no efforts from this office to direct ADHS’s operation of this program,” the governor’s press aide Patrick Ptak said in the report.

Berberian argues that the voter-approved law does not permit the Health Department to keep the proceeds from the ID card fees; and while Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry agreed with that premise six months ago, she ruled that it was not up to her to force the state to lower the cost. Patients are forced to pay the $150 annually.

“The only way the court could determine what fee meets the sufficient requirements of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and the Constitution would be to take over the administration of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act from the Department of Health Services,” she wrote in her ruling.

According to the report, the health department collected $24.9 million in fees from patients and industry operators last fiscal year, while its expenses to administer the program were $11.2 million. So far this year, the agency has collected $6 million in fees while spending $2.8 million in administrative costs.

As of Monday, the Health Department’s medical cannabis account had about $38.1 million, according to the report, more than three times the amount needed to operate the program every year.

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