Pubdate: Thu, 13 Feb 2014
Source: Tucson Weekly (AZ)
Copyright: 2014 Tucson Weekly
Author: J.M. Smith


Mr. Smith Is for Some of the Health Services Director's Suggestions, 
Not a Fan of Some of the Others

I once wrote about an artist couple in Cascabel, which is a 
sprawling, loosely connected community on the other side of Redington 
Pass. Cascabel is about halfway between Benson and San Manuel, 
roughly 30 miles to either one.

It's a kind of a hippie enclave populated by some true, old-school 
hippies-the real ones, from the 1960s, the ones who launched the 
cultural shift that is finally giving us legal cannabis, here and 
elsewhere. Two years ago, my artist acquaintances were building a 
greenhouse-a beautiful thing with a gracefully bent wood frame-so 
they could, for the first time in their lives, legally grow their own 
cannabis straight out of the ground they love. Some started growing, too.

Until they couldn't.

You see, part of Cascabel is a tiny little bit less than 25 miles 
from one of Tucson's eastside dispensaries, which meant that last 
year, when Tucson's dispensaries opened, some good-hearted folks lost 
the right to grow. But under draft rules released last week by the 
state Department of Health Services, they could get it back. The way 
the rules read now, 25 miles is measured as the crow flies. The state 
is considering a change to road miles, which would put my hippie 
artist friends somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles from that 
Tucson dispensary. I'm a fan.

The proposed change stems from a completely unrelated problem with 
the state medical cannabis rules. Last year, a judge deemed a rule 
covering dispensary operators unfair because there was no provision 
to renew a license that expires before a dispensary opens. When the 
judge ordered the state to change that rule, Health Services director 
Will Humble decided to kill several birds with one stone, so in 
addition to the 25-mile change, he proposed to adjust things thusly:

Remove a lifetime ban on dispensary board members or license holders 
who fail to get approval within one year. Good idea. This is completely unfair.

Clarify what it means for a dispensary to be open, operating and 
available to dispense; inventory control and transportation rules.

Limit dispensary donations by patients or caregivers to 2.5 ounces 
every two weeks. WTF? This is a horrible idea. Dispensaries rely on 
donations from caregivers to get meds for me. If growers are suddenly 
limited to donating 2.5 ounces, it will get very difficult for some 
dispensaries to maintain inventory. This is just another way for 
cannabis haters to hobble the system. I find it ironic that the very 
people who hate cannabis are encouraging the black market to 
flourish. It is flourishing, you know. I know patients who rarely set 
foot in dispensaries, simply because the state system makes it too 
expensive and inconvenient. I'm going to bet some of them are 
shopping on the black market, exactly the way they have since ... 
ever. Good job supporting the criminal element, Mr. Humble.

Make seniors, veterans, Social Security disability recipients and SSI 
recipients eligible for half-price medical cards ($75). I happen to 
be a veteran, so I like this very much. While you're at it, why don't 
you drop the price of a card for everyone? Maybe bring it down to a 
realistic figure, like Maine or New Mexico's $0. Or maybe Montana or 
Hawaii's $25, or even Vermont's $50. Only Nevada, New Jersey and 
Oregon ($200) have a higher fee than Arizona. Hmpf.

I think Humble did what he could with what we gave him. He expects 
these changes to be vetted and public-commented and oral 
presentationed and in effect by early next year. A lot of the rules 
were spelled out in the original text of Proposition 203 in 2010, so 
he has limited leeway for changes.

Thank you for dropping the price of a card, but you can do better. 
Thank you for clarifying the rules for dispensary operators, but why 
cripple them with trip routes and transportation rules? Is a trip 
route required for beer distributors? Nope. And thank you for 
clarifying the 25-mile law, which we crippled ourselves with in 2010.

So many people rage about that part of the law, but lest we forget, 
we are responsible for it. And because it's a law, not a rule, and 
especially because We the People insisted on it via voter initiative 
(overriding the wishes of our governor, state Legislature and federal 
government), it's hard to change. So because we gave ourselves the 
25-mile law, we now have to persuade that very governor and state 
Legislature to listen to us and change it. Yeah, OK.

Or maybe we need an entirely new law, one that would allow all adults 
to buy cannabis and to grow it for ourselves. Maybe we need a law 
that relegates cannabis to shelves where anyone can just go get some 
if he can't sleep or he's stressed out or depressed or has a migraine 
or PTSD ... or even if he just wants to chill out after a long day at work.

Maybe we need a law like that.


You can see the proposed rule changes here:
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom