PHOENIX — State lawmakers are moving to keep medical marijuana dispensaries in the rural areas of the state.
On a 5-4 vote Monday, the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs approved legislation which says that those who were the first to open marijuana stores following the 2010 voter approval of Proposition 203 cannot move outside the areas where they first set up shop. So if they agreed to serve the San Manuel area, they would be pretty much stuck there.
But it’s not that Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, the sponsor of HB 2029 particularly likes having dispensaries in the rural areas of his district which extends into Pinal County.
Leach pointed out that the 2010 law says anyone legally entitled to use medical marijuana must purchase it from a state-licensed and regulated dispensary.
But there is an exception for those who live more than 25 miles from such a shop: They can grow their own. What that means, Leach told colleagues, is that as the owners of rural dispensaries seek more financially fertile sites in the Phoenix and Tucson areas, that will leave large areas of the state where residents would be free to grow plants in their homes and yards, all unregulated by the state.
Leach said it already is happening. He said a dispensary that had been in Florence is now gone.
Monday’s vote came over the objections of Kevin DeMenna who lobbies on behalf of the dispensary owners.
He said that changing the rules now — and precluding his clients from taking advantage of better locations — would amount to an unconstitutional taking of their property rights. And that could land the whole issue in court.
The issue has its roots in the 2010 law which allows those with a doctor’s recommendation and state-issued ID