Homegrown Controversy

Not all MMJ patients look forward to the opening of dispensaries

There's been a lot of talk lately about the 25-mile rule for medical-marijuana patients.

The rule, which says no patient can grow for himself unless he lives more than 25 miles from a dispensary, will finally kick in this summer when dispensaries open. It seems to be pissing off a lot of people and causing a spate of arm-waving, foot-stomping and righteous indignation.

Through the end of May, about 25,000 patients had asked to grow statewide. Assuming even that half of them did, there are roughly 13,000 Arizona bedrooms or garages or corners of dens blossoming with hardy green flowers with little white hairs on them. It was a beautiful accident of Gov. Jan's decision to halt dispensaries. Thousands upon thousands of tiny grow operations popping up all over the state for the past year, spreading joy and love and kindness in the form of cheap medication.

I'm guessing most patients won't pack up the compact fluorescents next month. A lot of these folks waited many, many years to grow pot, and now they feel like they have a right to keep going after dispensaries open. There is a nascent effort to change the rule, to make growing an option for all patients. But until then, most patients will be forced to choose between affordable meds and legality.

It seems unfair and forces a huge expense on patients. I smoke about an eighth of an ounce a week, which isn't much by most standards. A lot of people go through twice that much, meaning they are smoking or eating or vaporizing about an ounce a month. At the going collective rate of more than $300 per ounce, that's a killer medication bill. Carol, a patient in her late 50s who is growing three plants, agrees. So she intends to keep right on growing after the dispensaries open.

"It's not like I'm out there selling it," she said. "I'm just going to keep a low profile and continue doing it. I don't think the Sheriff's Department is going to be going door to door looking for people growing medical marijuana."

Unlike urban patients, some caregivers won't have to stop growing—even if they're next door to a dispensary. Harold, a caregiver who lives on the eastside, is among them. As long as his patients live more than 25 miles from a dispensary, Harold can grow at his house.

"I went out of my way to find patients outside the 25-mile limit," he said.

He converted a spare bedroom, adding $3,000 worth of lights, trays, ventilation and CO2 equipment. He does not plan to let that investment sit idle.

For the record, I agree we should all have the right to switch out the home office for a grow room full of Blueberry and O.G. Kush and Tropicana Gold. We should have the right to set aside a corner of the living room where we could cultivate to our hearts' content a flowery bunch of Jack Herer or Banana Kush.

But for now, it's a moot point.

So Mr. Smith kinda wishes some of the 25-mile rule naysayers would STFU a little, drop the sprayer and back away from the hydro trays when the time comes. I'm grateful for the chance to buy meds somewhat legally in a dispensary. Yes, I would like to grow my own meds, and I hope sometime that rule changes so I can.

But in the meantime, I hope those 25,000 patients try their best to stay within the law. I would hate to see a string of arrests of MMJ patients illegally growing their meds.

Would that really help matters?

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