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.