Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jan 2012
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2012 The Arizona Republic
Author: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez


Inside a freshly-painted office building in north Phoenix, Lynette 
Shockley unpacked pieces of a black canvas tent to assemble so she 
can grow medical pot for patients and herself.

Around her, dozens of other registered caregivers erected their own 
grow tents and hauled in boxes of high-pressure sodium lights and 
duct systems to prepare for the opening of the 5,000-square-foot 
medical-marijuana cultivation center, soon to be a headquarters of 
sorts for 45 caregivers and 500 green leafy plants.

The center, near Seventh Avenue and Loop 101 is the first of its kind 
in the nation, its operators said, and provides a central location 
for caregivers to grow cannibus for patients with maladies ranging 
from cancer to chronic pain. Compassion First Caregivers Circle Inc. 
set up the center.

At 64, Shockley has lived with pain for a decade or so. Her hands are 
swollen with arthritis, a disease she inherited from her mother. 
Shockley can't make a fist, and sometimes her joints hurt so badly 
it's difficult to write.

She's tried everything to numb the constant aching -- 
over-the-counter pills, cortisone shots and high-powered prescription 
pain relievers.

Eventually, she discovered the only remedy that numbed the pain -- 
pot. For years, she self-medicated by secretly toking on a joint or 
eating pot brownies. She bought the pot from friends and neighbors. 
But now, she will grow her own at the cultivation center.

With the voter-approved medical-marijuana law, she can legally grow 
the drug for herself since she is registered as a caregiver with the 
state Department of Health Services, and she can distribute it to 
other cardholders.

"Nothing has touched the pain except for marijuana," she said. "Now, 
I can finally help myself legally, and help other patients who need it."

Under the law, passed by voters in 2010, people with certain 
debilitating medical conditions can use pot. They must register with 
the state, which issues ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers.

The state has been embroiled in legal disputes over application of 
the law, but it appears most of those fights are over. Since there 
are not yet any licensed pot dispensaries, caregivers and patients 
can grow their own marijuana, up to 12 plants per person.

Several marijuana "clubs," which provide patients with medical 
marijuana, already have opened up in the Valley. They immediately 
drew concern from state officials, who filed suit to close them.

About 1,065 caregivers and 18,000 patients are registered with the state.

This cultivation center is operated by Scottsdale philanthropist and 
businessman Gerald Gaines.

The center will open with a soft launch on Saturday, and will be 
fully up and running on Feb. 18. Gaines plans on opening a center in 
south Phoenix and a third in Tempe.

Under the center's model, caregivers will charge patients market rate 
for the pot, about $300 per ounce, Gaines said. Under state rules, 
caregivers can sell to five patients. Caregivers cannot make a profit 
on the pot and cannot charge for their time. The growers will donate 
extra monetary proceeds or the marijuana itself to charity, he said. 
Generally, he said, patients use one-eighth of an ounce per week 
while heavier users can consume three-fourths of an ounce per week. 
One plant typically generates four ounces of marijuana.

During a recent tour, jars of the dried drug with names like "white 
queen," "purple urkle" and "Afghan kush" sat on a table. Growers can 
manipulate the drug's potency through different strains to treat 
different conditions and ailments.

"That's why medical marijuana has so much promise," Gaines said. "And 
this center is a way to get as many patients as much medicine as they need."

On-hand expertise from pot consultants drew Jeff Moriarity to the center.

A licensed patient and caregiver, the 67-year-old said he can learn 
how to grow marijuana right.

On this day, Moriarity is really hurting. He suffers from hardening 
of the arteries and lactic acid build-up in both legs. It's hurts to 
vacuum, and he has to rest after walking 100 feet.

"I thought 'What the heck?' and tried it at a friend's house once," 
he recalled. "Then, I went for a long walk -- and my legs didn't 
hurt. So, I decided to grow it so I can make sure it's fine and dandy 
with no pesticides."

Armed guards, security cameras and alarms will protect the marijuana 
plants around the clock, Gaines said, adding that he also doesn't 
expect local law enforcement to hassle them.

"We're abiding by the law so we don't expect any problems," he said.

Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said law enforcement are cautioning 
people to closely follow the medical-marijuana law to prevent run-ins 
with the police.

"This is a new kind of program, a new kind of business, and so we're 
just telling folks to read the law and follow the law," Martos said.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery would not comment on the 
opening of the center, a spokesman said, citing potential future 
litigation regarding medical marijuana.

Angel Rodriguez, a caregiver, grow consultant and former medic with 
the military, set up shop at the center partly because of a run-in 
with the cops.

His patients' maladies range from kidney failure to cancer.

"I grew it out of my home for a little bit, but now I'm trying to 
help other people grow," said Rodriguez, 34. "I want to help patients 
any way I can."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom