For would-be distributors of medical marijuana, finding a place to sell pot legally wasn't easy, and it wasn't cheap.
They combed maps of Tucson and scouted streets to find locations that meet the city's strict zoning requirements. Then they cajoled landlords wary of leasing to the new business ventures, laid down hefty deposits and agreed to pay premium rental rates.
Now - about two months after the day they thought they'd be able to apply for state certification - they're still waiting.
"A lot of people are getting discouraged because it costs so much money to hang in there," said Vicky Puchi-Saavedra, who plans on opening several marijuana dispensaries in Tucson.
Puchi-Saavedra said she had already started paying rent on one location she secured, but had to let that spot go because it was getting too expensive.
She's working on getting her money back from another deposit, but some deals have already fallen through. Still, Puchi-Saavedra said this will only end up delaying the presence of marijuana dispensaries.
"I'm still sticking to my plan," she said. "I'm just having to get different locations."
Puchi-Saavedra and other prospective dispensary operators are waiting for a federal court to decide if Arizona can enact its medical-marijuana law even though federal statutes make using the drug illegal. The issue was raised late in May by Gov. Jan Brewer, who worried state employees charged with administering the program could face federal prosecution.
Brewer also kept the state Department of Health Services - which was set to start accepting applications for medical-marijuana dispensaries June 1 - from issuing any permits until a decision is made.
Even so, dispensary operators submitted applications, and they were quickly rejected by the department.
The state has refused about 20 applications and will continue to turn away any that come in, said Laura Oxley, spokeswoman for the department. "Until there is something done with the court case, our program continues to be suspended."
Some of those dispensary operators whose applications were rejected filed suit in state court to force implementation of the law.
Ryan Hurley, an attorney for the Phoenix dispensary operators, said that case is in a holding pattern because action is more likely to occur first in the federal case.
On July 7, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion to dismiss the federal case. It argued that a state can't use a federal court to validate or invalidate one of its laws until an actual case or controversy emerges. The motion also argued that state officials may never face a threat of prosecution.
Meanwhile, dispensary operators in Arizona are stuck in limbo.
"Landlords are getting cold feet and anyone who was going to invest is getting cold feet," Hurley said. "Some of them are falling out and some of them are holding on for dear life."
The state has already begun issuing the identification cards that allow patients to use medical pot, and Puchi-Saavedra said those people need legitimate operations to acquire marijuana.
The law allows those who don't live near medical marijuana dispensaries to grow their own and share it with other cardholders. In Phoenix, clubs have started to emerge where dues-paying members are allowed to obtain free samples of marijuana.
High-profile clubs with medical-marijuana patients exchanging pot for donations haven't become widespread in the Tucson area, but they could soon.
And that's just the situation Arizona's law set out to avoid, Puchi-Saavedra said.
Contact reporter Dale Quinn at email@example.com or 573-4197.