PHOENIX - Nearly 500 applications have been submitted by those hoping to operate one or more of the 126 legal marijuana dispensaries that will be allowed to open later this year.

That includes about 70 applications in Southern Arizona.

State Health Director Will Humble said Monday that there was a last-minute rush to submit applications by Friday's 5 p.m. deadline.

"There were people walking in the door at three minutes to 5," he said. Humble said the final tally was far more than he had expected.

Most of the applications will be rejected. Under the terms of the 2010 voter-approved law, the state can have one dispensary for every 10 pharmacies. That worked out to 126, which happened to be the same as the number of "Community Health Analysis Areas." So applications were accepted for each area, even though they are not of equal population.

But not all areas proved equally desirable.

The Estrella area southwest of Phoenix garnered the most applications with 16. But 11 other areas had double-digit requests, including Catalina north of Tucson.

There were no applications for any of the reservations, as the law requires proof of acceptable zoning, and the tribes have been reluctant to go along. And some areas apparently were of little interest to prospective marijuana dealers, including the land stretching from Tucson's west side.

Humble said there isn't necessarily a rhyme or reason for that.

The health director said he can understand the crush in Tempe, close to Arizona State University. State statistics show that 645 of the state's nearly 29,000 registered marijuana users live there.

But how to explain the 10 applications for the Catalina area, given there are only registered 68 patients there?

Humble said some of it may be where there are areas with suitable zoning. But he also said it may be a "nuance to their business model."

He pointed out that the dispensaries are allowed to grow their own marijuana, not only for their own retail customers but also to sell to other shops that don't want to get into the growing business.

For example, he pointed to the fact that nine applications were submitted in Show Low.

"There may be some facilities up there that allow people to have a large cultivation facility," he said. And the weather may be more suitable to growing the plants.

The applications that were submitted must include specific addresses, but the law precludes him from disclosing them. The only people legally entitled to that information are those who hold cards allowing them to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

But the dispensaries will want to get the word out, Humble said.

"I think most of them will be doing either social market advertising or actual advertising," he said.

Humble's goal is to begin reviewing applications next month and award permits on Aug. 7.

With few exceptions, everyone who has applied gets an equal shot: The system requires a lottery when there are multiple applicants in the same area.

arizona areas with most applications

Applications for medical marijuana dispensaries

Areas with 10 or more applications:

Estrella (near Phoenix) 16

Tempe North 13

Flagstaff East 13

Yavapai County Northeast 13

Scottsdale North 13

Casa Grande 12

Deer Valley 11

Mesa 11

Apache Junction 10

Coolidge 10

Maryvale 10

Catalina 10

Note: Geographic designations are not cities, but "Community Health Analysis Areas" designed to divide the state into chunks with roughly equal numbers of people.

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

No. of proposals in southern Arizona

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern Arizona's "Community Health Analysis Areas."

Catalina 10

Tucson Central 9

Tucson Southwest 8

Tucson East Central 5

Tucson Northeast 4

Tanque Verde 4

Tucson North Central 4

Benson 4

Tucson East 3

Tucson Southeast 3

Tubac/Patagonia 3

Willcox/Bowie 3

Sierra Vista 3

Continental 2

Bisbee 1

Douglas 1

Ajo 1

Marana 1

Tucson Northwest 1

Arivaca 1

Nogales 0

San Xavier District 0

Pascua Yaqui 0

Tombstone/Elfrida 0

Tucson West 0

Green Valley 0

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services