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Lawmakers act to change medical marijuana rules


State lawmakers are moving to keep medical marijuana dispensaries in the rural areas of the state.

On a 5-4 vote Monday, the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs approved legislation saying those who were the first to open marijuana stores following the 2010 voter approval of Proposition 203 cannot move outside the areas where they first set up shop. So if they agreed to serve the San Manuel area, they would be pretty much stuck there.

But it’s not that Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, the sponsor of HB2029, particularly likes having dispensaries in the rural areas of his district, which extends into Pinal County.

Leach pointed out that the 2010 law says anyone legally entitled to use medical marijuana must purchase it from a state-licensed and regulated dispensary.

But there is an exception for those who live more than 25 miles from such a shop: They can grow their own. What that means, Leach told colleagues, is that as the owners of rural dispensaries seek more financially fertile sites in the Phoenix and Tucson areas, that will leave large areas of the state where residents would be free to grow plants in their homes and yards, all unregulated by the state.

Leach said it already is happening. He said a dispensary that had been in Florence is now gone.

Monday’s vote came over the objections of Kevin DeMenna, who lobbies on behalf of the dispensary owners.

He said that changing the rules now — and precluding his clients from taking advantage of better locations — would amount to an unconstitutional taking of their property rights. And that could land the whole issue in court.

The issue has its roots in the 2010 law that allows those with a doctor’s recommendation and state-issued ID card to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. That same law also directed the state Department of Health Services to allow a certain number of dispensaries.

That number turned out to be the number of “community health analysis areas.” If there was more than one applicant for any area there had to be a lottery; if not, the sole applicant got the right to sell marijuana in that area.

With that distribution, virtually every area of the state became within 25 miles of a dispensary. State health officials estimated in 2014 that covered 98 percent of marijuana users.

But Colby Bower, lobbyist for the health department, said the agency’s rules also say that anyone who had been in an area for three years is free to move anywhere else in the state, assuming the applicant could get the proper zoning.

That’s what’s happening now — and what Leach is seeking to stop.

“If you take the dispensaries out of small towns as San Manuel, Oracle, Florence, and you move them to where the population is, and the wealth base, you’ll see that they’ll be moving into Scottsdale, Phoenix and the like,” he said.

Leach said he has no problem with those larger communities having more dispensaries

“If they want to accept as many as they want, that is up to them,” he said. “That is local control.”

His issue is the flip side.

“We’ll be turning rural Arizona into an open-grow because the dispensaries will be leaving,” Leach said. And it’s not just a user with a flower pot: He noted the law permits someone to grow up to 12 plants at once.

DeMenna told lawmakers the state can’t change the rules now.

He said some of the people who invested in rural dispensaries years ago did so with the understanding that they could sell their dispensary licenses after three years to someone who might want to make a go of it in an urban area. And DeMenna said while the dispensaries are technically non-profit operations, they are worth money to those who own them and pay themselves a salary, with licenses recently selling for $2 million to $3 million.

That argument was enough to convince Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale. He said the dispensary owners are running a business and the state should not be imposing new restrictions.

But the majority of the panel thought otherwise, setting the state for a vote of the full House.

Leach could have his hands full there.

Because the medical marijuana law was approved by the voters, lawmakers can make only those changes that “further the purpose” of the original law. And even if Leach can meet that hurdle, amendments like this require a three-fourths vote of both the House and Senate, something that could prove difficult to get.


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  1. what a situation, we have on one side a Republican , who wants MORE REGULATIONS & a Democrat who wants less. LOL this is a Real Example of the extreme right pushing their beliefs into governing a population and the left saying the law is the law lol
    THIS Could Look a Little Fascist

  2. What’s the big deal about people growing a handful of plants in their backyards and on their ranches? What’s the harm? How about dealing with the real problem of rampant opioid addiction all over Arizona’s rural counties, completely out of control? Oh, I forgot, the opioid manufacturers and medicos are major campaign contributors to characters like Leach; the rural folks aren’t. That explains everything.

    (The folks in Tucson aren’t going to take kindly to Leach’s opportunistic attempt to regulate a nonproblem elsewhere in the state, there’s enough that needs doing right at home.)

  3. I’m not an Arizonan however as a true medicinal – organic MMJ biz owner in MT it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see clear flaws in AZ thinking…first off if AZ was that concerned about keeping the Riff Raff out of the MMJ market, don’t hold a dam raffle to determine who gets a license. That’s about as rediculous as putting a monkey in charge of the banana farm. Secondly as a MMJ patient with MCS disorder you are forcing people to use medicine grown by others who’s only motive is big $$$ hence cutting corners on cheaper nutrients, sub-par quick meat hold growing techniques which result in MMJ meds being unsafe for certain patients. Case in point….I can only consume what I we grow. Anytime I have ever consumed MMJ meds from another grower, I find more and more issues with the chemicals being used. That is the result of having multiple chemical sensitivity disorder . Plants aren’t flushed properly, pesticides are used, etc, etc….all exacerbating certain health isses which most patients with chronic illnesses are trying to avoid. Growing for oneself canallerviate these isses especially when one knows exactly what’s going into ones own medicine/plants.

  4. Az Mmj fraud victim.

    I’m sitting here rotting away from ailments that Cannabis treats wonderfully. I am an Arizona MMJ cardholder.

    Every day I wish I had access to Cannabis.. I don’t, because I am forbidden to grow it.

    The dispensaries are not an option.. I have tried 50-60 different producers and not a one of them producers a clean, natural, authentic product. Not even close.. The product produced by state licensed dispensaries is not in the same realm of medical or even recreational Cannabis I’ve never seen anything like it. It looks like Cannabis, but past thst I don’t recognize this stuff as Cannabis.

    It is nothing like the real strains you get on the informal market. I would not vape dispensary weed if somone paid me. It’s an utter abomination. Its not what it claims to be, it is speed grown from random salvaged seeds with synthetic chemicals directly injected into the plant. No soil or water is used,only liquid Miracle-Gro. This alone is unsuitable for medicinal purposes. We all know what hydroponics are. A complete fraud, imitation lookalike produce..

    This direct feed methodology grows a plant remarkably different in cell structure. The plant becomes disease prone, and more chemicals are of course the remedy of choice. The plant is harvested early in the race against mold. All Az dispensary Cannabis is contaminated with systemic powdery mildew. These chemicals stacked atop chemicals completely wipe out any positive aspect of the Cannabis, and introduce many negatives aside from weakening the plant, introducing disease and pests. It is asthma inducing, vomit inducing, headache inducing, nauseating imitation Cannabis. Right down to the artificial fragrances used to dress up the contaminated, stripped down product..

    If you think you have a grasp on Cannabis aroma, I dare you to find anything in the dispensaries that actual smells like marijuana. If you do, I guarantee it won’t taste like Marijuana. (Yes, unadulterated Cannabis has an extremely fragrant smell and an overwhelming flavor when grown naturally. The effects from dispensary Cannabis do not compare at all to natural Cannabis grown in fertile probiotic soil. Dispensaries Cannabis offers a druggy, narcoleptic, spaced out lazy stoner-loser brain cell killing effect your parents warned you about. You dont get these negatives from natural soil-digestion Cannabis.

    If you believe hydroponic produce to be a suitable product for naturopathic therapy, you lack understanding of the medicinal properties attributed to Cannabis. It has very little to do with THC counts. But to go as far as to overfeed the plant synthetic nutrients, to leave those fertilizers in the plant, and to spray the product with pesticides, sugar,perfumes, and other fraud industry contaminants weight additives and snake oils , is completely irredeemable.

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