Saguaro Healing, LLC v. Bachus – 7/13/2023

July 31, 2023

Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, holds that a sealing order cannot exceed the scope of a confidentiality statute.

A company submitted an application to the Arizona Department of Health Services (“ADHS”) for a marijuana dispensary registration certificate.  ADHS denied the company’s application, awarding the certificate to a different applicant.  The company moved to compel ADHS to produce documentation proving it had properly issued the certificate.  The superior court ordered the documents be submitted to the court for an in camera review.

The superior court concluded after review that ADHS had properly issued the certificate and entered a sealed minute entry to that effect.  The company moved to unseal the documents submitted to the superior court, which the court denied in an another sealed minute entry.  The company pursued a special action in the court of appeals challenging the superior court’s denial of its motion to unseal.

A.R.S. § 36-2810 exempts from Arizona’s Public Records Law and keeps confidential certain records kept by ADHS for purposes of administering the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, such as applications for a dispensary registration certificate and their supporting materials.  The court of appeals held that the superior court erred in denying the request to unseal as to all of the documents submitted by ADHS for in camera review, because most of the documents were not listed in § 36-2810 and were not protected.  The court of appeals therefore remanded for the superior court to unseal the documents and rulings that are not covered by the statutory confidentiality provision.

Judge Cruz issued the opinion, in which Judges Morse and McMurdie joined.