A Lack of Green

Another Black Friday has come and gone without access to legally buyable cannabis

With banks appropriately gorged on your post-Thanksgiving shop-binge, and shop owners thankfully sated by the stacks of holiday cash you're jamming down their throats, Black Friday yet again dawned bleak over Arizona's medical-marijuana world.

While patients rejoice in Colorado and Washington state, where access to cannabis is moving toward total, thankyouverymuch, things still pretty much suck in the cannabis biz here. Admittedly, things are creeping ahead, but we have exactly ... nothing more than we had last year at this time.

Am I grateful? Dunno.

As of Nov. 16, six dispensary operators had asked for state inspections, the final step before state authorization to operate. Of those, just two—one on Kolb Road just south of Broadway Boulevard, and one in Glendale—had been approved. Neither had opened. It's not for lack of trying.

Dispensary operators are apparently having trouble finding meds to stock shelves for the rush they know will hit when they open. Neither approved dispensary had an approved grow location, so for now, they are relying on the kindness of caregivers and patients to pass along extra meds. Now, it seems to me that with 27,724 people authorized to grow cannabis across the state, there would be plenty to go around—about 187,000 pounds, if each current patient grows 12 plants three times per year and gets 3 ounces per plant. That seems like a pretty awesome bounty that should be available for dispensaries, but it isn't.

The problem lies in the voters' will. We hobbled our own damn selves when we passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The law does not allow patients to sell their cannabis. Patients can't sell it to each other, and they can't sell it to dispensaries. Boo to that. I suspect a lot of voters overlooked that little wrench in the works when they supported the law.

Ultimately, I still question the need for dispensaries. Every patient in the state could be served by his fellow man, if the system would allow it. Yes, there will always be people who would rather walk into a safe, familiar environment to get meds. There is a niche market there. But I think most patients (most of the ones I talk to, anyway) would rather get meds the way they always have—from their friends (who are now caregivers and fellow patients).

In a perfect world (Colorado?), we would all be allowed to grow whatever meds we need in the privacy of our extra bedrooms, and we would be allowed to sell them to whomever we wanted. But this world sucks a little, so we have to rely on what we have. And despite the foot-dragging and lollygagging in Phoenix, the march continues toward dispensaries.

So as I sit here not shopping, I am grateful for our nascent medical-marijuana world. It's not perfect; there are glitches to be sure. I still can't head to the dispensary to grab some holiday relief, and there is no chance to get a smokin' deal on what could be Green Friday. But I can exchange all the cannabis I want with fellow patients, and though we don't have much to pick from here, there are dozens of collectives operating in the Phoenix area. The cops have jackbooted a few, including the available collective shop fronts in Tucson, but we do have a small but growing cannabis economy. So even if the MMJ business world can't partake in the annual shopfuck orgy, we can get a little on the side.

It's something. Right?

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