By: Gary Michael Smith, Esq.
This month I come with a topic of personal interest, organic gardening. For those of you who don’t know me well, I have almost 200 square feet of organic raised garden beds in my backyard. Year round, I grow and enjoy an array of fresh, organic produce and greens (I grow some amazing tomatoes!). Partially, I do this because gardening is a fun hobby. I also do it because I try to be health conscious. I grow my vegetables with zero pesticides. You are what you eat, after all.
Home growing cannabis would fit perfectly in my profile. But in all these many years since AMMA was enacted, there has been the “25-mile” rule that prohibits home cultivation for any patient living within 25 miles of an operating dispensary. In practical terms, if you live in the Phoenix metro area, the geographic spread of open dispensaries pretty much assures you are never going to have cultivation rights.
My lawyer brain has never accepted the illogic of the 25-mile rule. My frustration has been that the 25-mile rule begrudgingly accepts that there is an alternative to making a patient take a trip to acquire plant medicine – that alternative being to trust the patient to cultivate at home.
I can’t reconcile this. Which is it? Am I trustworthy to have a living plant in my garden? Or, am I only trustworthy, provided I live an arbitrary 25 miles away from any operating dispensary? And what exactly happens when I drop down to 24.99 miles? In that last hundredth of a mile do I suddenly become shifty and unreliable? It’s the same plant, Right? The only distinctions seem to be 25 miles and live plant versus dead plant. Bizarre.
The most recent iteration of the Safe and Smart Arizona Act proposes to do away with the 25-mile rule, allowing home cultivation of up to 6 plants per person, 12 plants per household. And, yes, adults only. The initiative proposes that adults can grow these plants provided they keep the plants out of public view and in a closet or on the grounds of the property in a secure enclosure that “prevents access by minors”. [Personally, I would change "prevents” to "discourages.”
You know how literal some people can take things.] This seems a reasonable first step that balances common notions of public safety with the privilege to produce a quantity of medicine to meet the needs of the individual – contrasted with say filling your front yard with a wall-to-wall crop (which I am pretty sure would fetch you a violation letter from your HOA).
On this same issue of home cultivation, a thing that the Safe and Smart Arizona Act omits is seed supply. That omission could create an unintended downstream problem. Gardeners need seeds. What if no dispensary opted to sell seeds or seeds people want? How would Arizona patients and recreational gardeners lawfully acquire them? Or, what if dispensaries opted only to sell non-guaranteed, non-feminized seeds at $40 a seed?
A privilege to cultivate is meaningless without seeds at reasonable prices. It seems a few minor and Either way, the prospect of finally being able to cultivate at home is exciting. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson cultivated cannabis at home. Why not you?
–Gary Michael Smith is an attorney and arbitrator and founding member of the Phoenix Arizona-based Guidant Law Firm. He is also a founding director and current president of the Arizona Cannabis Bar Association. He can be reached at Smith@Guidant.law.