A small group of Dolan Springs residents are more concerned about medical marijuana dispensaries charging exorbitant prices then they are about patients growing the drug in their back yards.
The group of about 12 people met with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition spokesman Jay Fleming Thursday evening at the Castle Rock Ranch and Arena in Dolan Springs to discuss Arizona's medical marijuana law and the possibility of a dispensary moving into town.
LEAP is a national organization of current and former law enforcement officers who advocate for the legalization of marijuana.
"This law was written to funnel money to the dispensaries," said Fleming, a former undercover narcotics officer from Montana and a medical marijuana patient.
Arizona's medical marijuana act prohibits patients and caregivers from growing their own medicine if they are within 25 miles of a dispensary.
The problem is marijuana dispensaries are charging people for more than the cost of growing the plant, he said.
According to Arizona Revised Statute 36-2806, marijuana dispensaries are supposed to be non-profit organizations. Non-profit organizations are supposed to charge just enough for their products to cover the cost of operating.
"You can grow this for next to nothing in your backyard," Fleming said. "Even indoors under lights it costs maybe $225 a pound to grow. If they're charging $300 to $400 a pound they're drug dealers. It's just ridiculous."
He also pointed out that it was unlikely that patients and caregivers who grow their own are willing to just "donate" $400 worth of product to a dispensary and then buy their own stock back when their approval to grow runs out. There's going to be some money exchanging hands under the table, he said.
You also don't know the quality of the product you're getting when you buy from dispensary that accepts donations, Fleming said. It could have pests or pesticide residue on it. The dispensaries don't inspect donors' facilities.
The law is too broad and too vague, Fleming said.
He suggested that patients and caregivers contact their local state legislators and get them to change the rules for people who want to grow their own.
According to state law, the Legislature cannot repeal the medical marijuana act because the citizens put it on the ballot. However, the Legislature can amend it. In order to amend the law three-fourths of the members of both houses of the Legislature have to approve the amendment. The amendment also has to further the cause of the original law. The Legislature can also refer a change in the law to a vote of the people.
One resident asked if there was a grassroots movement they could join to put pressure on the Legislature.
Fleming said there really wasn't a lobby group for patients. The dispensaries supported most of the medical marijuana groups lobbying the Legislature. LEAP wasn't designed as a lobbying group, he said. It's more of an education group.
Another resident asked how long it would take to set up a dispensary in Dolan Springs.
Fleming said it depended on what the dispensary would have to do to the building they planned use. The law requires a lot of security measures to be in place before a dispensary can open.
One woman asked what security changes she would have to make to her greenhouse to grow the drug in her backyard.
All she would have to do is to make sure someone couldn't see inside the greenhouse and put a lock on the door that would prevent anyone other than the patient from getting in, Fleming said. It could be as easy as frosting the glass and installing a sturdy door lock.
If a patient or caregiver didn't have a greenhouse they would have to build an enclosed, locked facility that would prevent anyone from gaining access to the drug, he said.
Someone else asked about law enforcement searching your car.
"Be polite, don't flunk the attitude test, but tell them no," Fleming said. "And keep telling them no, unless they have a warrant. If they threaten to call a dog, let them."
He also recommended telling your doctor that he can't get in trouble with the federal government for writing a recommendation for marijuana as long as he follows Arizona's laws. And remind them to check your name against the state's list of prescription drug abusers. Failing to do so could cost them their license.