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State Capitol News

Expanding Medical Marijuana Growing at the Center of State Lawsuit

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Michael Chow/The Republic
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State health officials are being sued over a provision in the voter-approved Medical Marijuana Act that bars those who live within 25 miles of a dispensary from growing their own plants. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

The 2010 law allows those with certain medical conditions to buy up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from a state-regulated dispensary. But, the law also says medical marijuana cardholders who are not within 25 miles of a shop can cultivate their own drugs. The lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court contends that giving grow rights to some and not to others is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. State Health Director Will Humble acknowledged the disparity. But, he said voters created a dispensary-based system to avoid the problems with an unregulated grow-your-own program.

“One of the fundamental things that you lose in that kind of a system are the inventory controls that prevent diversion of marijuana to non-cardholders. Because when somebody’s growing 12 of their own plants in their own house, they could share it with anybody, not legally, but for all practical purposes, the inventory controls are lost,” Humble said.

Billy B. Hayes, a non-attorney who filed the legal papers on behalf of himself and others, wants Judge Arthur Anderson to rule that all of the more than 52,000 medical marijuana patients in Arizona are eligible to grow their own plants without fear of prosecution. And, recognizing the case could take time to resolve, Hayes is asking Anderson to block state health officials from enforcing the no-grow provisions while the lawsuit is proceeding.

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