State selects 97 applicants in medical marijuana dispensary lottery

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX --  When the Department of Health Services called this a lottery, they weren't kidding. From the process of picking to the anxious players hoping to win, just like the lotto, hearing your number could change your life.

Members of Compassion First, a medical marijuana advocacy group, celebrated their colleagues who applied to run dispensaries in several of the designated districts -- and won.

"Looks like we've been successful in Fountain Hills, looks like we've been successful in Estrella, which is South Phoenix," said Kendric Speagle of Compassion First.

Most of those winners are concerned for their privacy at this point and do not want to be identified. There were also losses within their group, including Ellen Bridgewater.

"The number came up and it was theirs and ours was right underneath it and I was like 'Grr!'" she laughed. "But to me it just shows that we're meant to be doing this."

Bridgewater was one of 433 dispensary registrations hoping to be picked, but not one of the 97 chosen. Health Services says the lotto is just the beginning.

"That's about 1 percent of the process -- or less," said Director Will Humble.

Now the real work begins for the lucky ones.

The number of dispensaries allowed to be in Arizona depends on the number of pharmacies in the state. Health Services says if all the awarded dispensaries open, 98 percent of Arizonans will live within 25 miles of one.