A business in Glendale has become Arizona's first licensed medical-marijuana dispensary under a voter-approved 2010 law.

It's called Arizona Organix — but it would have been more fitting had the owners dubbed the place Target and adopted the mega-chain's red concentric logo.

This is hostile territory — the land of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who claims that anyone selling marijuana can be prosecuted regardless of the state law, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who'll do anything for a headline.

Ray Stern
A bank-teller-style window is to provide security for dispensary employees. Patients would be called into a back room of the store to see the different strains of medical marijuana for sale.
Ray Stern
A bank-teller-style window is to provide security for dispensary employees. Patients would be called into a back room of the store to see the different strains of medical marijuana for sale.
Arizona Organix logo
Arizona Organix logo

Montgomery, who also strongly opposes abortion and pornography, is trying his best to become a hero to social conservatives. In August, he partnered with Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to file a motion in Superior Court that seeks to reverse the will of voters — allowing dispensaries and marijuana cultivation — by having a judge declare that the state law is preempted by the federal prohibition against pot.

A ruling on the motion by Judge Michael Gordon is expected any day now. But Montgomery and Arpaio could use another test case.

So far, Arizona Organix owners Ben Myer, Bill Myer (Ben's father), and Ryan Wells have stuck out their heads only halfway.

Their store was authorized on November 15 to sell marijuana by the Arizona Department of Health Services, but it isn't open yet. A sign on the door at Arizona Organix (5301 West Glendale Avenue), which is in a high-profile location between a pet-food store and an antique shop, says, "We hope to be operating within a few weeks" and asks interested customers to sign up on an e-mail list.

The situation frustrates some in the medical-marijuana community, because the DHS said it would begin notifying newly qualified patients who are within a 25-mile radius of the store that they are forbidden from growing marijuana. Arizona law allows patients to grow up to 12 plants each, but not if an operating dispensary is open within a 25-mile zone.

However, on Monday afternoon, DHS director Will Humble announced that it had allowed the dispensary to delay the effective day of operation until the retail store opens, meaning the 25-mile exclusion won't be triggered just yet.

Other dispensaries could open before Arizona Organix. DHS inspectors were scheduled to visit a Tucson dispensary on November 20. But the legal battlefield remains hazy for any marijuana-related business in Arizona.

Wells tells New Times that he and the Myers still are trying to figure out when to open, even though they've been working on the dispensary project for two years.

"This has been such a long road for us; a lot of my feelings are pretty well dulled by this point. The next hurdle is to open and see what happens," Wells says.

They're wondering what Arpaio might do: "He's always in our minds for the worst."

But that's not the only hurdle. Arizona Organix hasn't yet found a cultivation site in which to grow the marijuana that will be sold to qualified patients.

The city of Glendale, which approved the dispensary earlier this year, doesn't allow medical-marijuana retail stores to grow pot on-site. The company's looking for a roomy warehouse to turn into an indoor greenhouse. Landlords, fearing reprisals from the feds, have been more than hesitant.

"Nine out of 10 say no," Wells says. He adds that obtaining a site still appears possible, as they're in negotiations with several property owners.

In theory, the medical-pot shop could open with donated marijuana on the shelves. Patients and caregivers can only possess up to 2.5 ounces at any given time under state law, but growing 12 plants generates more than 2.5 ounces. Arizona law allows patients and registered caregivers, who can cultivate for up to five patients each, to give their excess marijuana away to authorized dispensaries.

Wells says Arizona Organix possibly could find people who want to donate their marijuana, but he says it's not good business to open with a limited supply only to run out before replacement pot from a cultivation site is ready for sale. Being the only operating, official medical-pot store in the Valley would make it popular, for sure. And the location already has been operating as a compassion club, which distributed marijuana to dues-paying members, ostensibly without requiring anything of value in return.

Until last week, the Alternative Health Clinic used what is now Arizona Organix's address and phone number. "Very easy process to get high-quality medicine," says a February 14 comment on the clinic's Yelp.com listing.

Similar businesses have sprung up all over the state since the passage of the Medical Marijuana Act. They're a result, in part, of the vacuum created when Governor Jan Brewer canceled the dispensary portion of the law by executive order in May 2011. After two failures in court to block the law, the Republican governor was ordered by a state judge in January to carry out the wishes of voters. Ninety-seven applicants for dispensaries were selected at random by the state.

Meanwhile, Valley police agencies have raided several compassion clubs, claiming they were operating outside of the medical-marijuana law. New clubs have opened to replace some of those that closed. The raids typically are preceded by an undercover "buy" at the club by an officer with a medical-marijuana card. It's unknown whether Alternative Health Clinic was under investigation by any law enforcement agency when Arizona Organix took over at the location.

No "flags" were raised about the evolution from a compassion club at the same address, says Arizona Organix's lawyer, Ryan Hurley, who's spoken out against such clubs in the past.

The compassion clubs — along with dispensaries and cultivation sites — have been declared illegal by AG Horne. Hurley says it's possible under state law that caregivers could be reimbursed by patients for the cost of growing marijuana, thus permitting a small cannabis club to operate within the boundaries of state statute. But he says he continues to have concerns about the way other compassion clubs do business.

Once Arizona Organix or other dispensaries nail down their cultivation sites, no one knows whether the feds will try to shut them down. A May 2011 letter by former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke to Governor Brewer suggested that the federal government may target "large" marijuana-cultivation sites whether or not they're authorized under state license. Brewer used the letter as ammunition to carry out her legal attack on the voter-approved law, which she'd opposed publicly in 2010, but Burke said Brewer was distorting his stance for political purposes.

New Arizona U.S. Attorney John Leonardo hasn't said he would or wouldn't order raids of dispensaries or grow sites operating within the guidelines of Arizona law.

Complicating matters, or perhaps easing them, voters in Colorado and Washington this month legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults. The federal government hasn't yet responded to the challenge. Whether newly re-elected President Barack Obama handles the rebellious states with a crackdown or capitulation could have consequences for Arizona's medical-pot program.

Also, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held hearings last month on whether marijuana should remain as a Schedule 1 drug, with no accepted medical use, under U.S. Law; a decision is pending.

Taking marijuana from seeds or clones to mature plants that can be dried and sold to patients would take two to three months. Once open, Arizona Organix is expected to sell a wide range of indica and sativa buds and possibly smokable hashish or a powdered concentrate called kief. Pot-infused "edibles" probably also will be available, once the business passes a separate state inspection required whenever food is sold to the public.

Assuming the store opens and money begins to roll in, another hurdle will quickly present itself. Most U.S. banks have declined to allow any marijuana-related businesses to hold accounts. Hurley says no one has ordered them to do that, but "they've made internal risk decisions and decided this is not a good thing to get into."

Credit-card companies also don't want to deal with dispensaries, though Hurley says Arizona Organix, a registered nonprofit corporation in Arizona, can use "alternate payment systems," similar to PayPal, to take credit cards from patients. However, the banking problem will be a "constant challenge," requiring the company to do a lot of its transactions in cash.

Then, the problem becomes what to do with all that cash. And how to pay the Internal Revenue Service for taxes on products and services sold that violate federal law. And how to cut payroll checks for its directors, "budtenders," and other staff members.

Meanwhile, the state of Arizona supposedly will track the inventory of the dispensary from seeds to sale.

Other would-be dispensary owners are watching Arizona Organix carefully, waiting to make their own move until they see if the company gets hassled.

Arizona Organix is the first state-approved dispensary, but the history of marijuana in this country still is being written.

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15 comments
Richard1980
Richard1980

So we now have 18 states that have Medical Cannabis 2 of which have voted in full legalization for all users... Keep in mind the DEA and there cohorts are after the money. Cannabis is a very large chunk of the DEA budget. If they dont have to use the dollars on Cannabis I think some would lose there jobs? maybe not I would redeploy them to control our borders. http://www.protopage.com/camelblue-cigarettes http://www.protopage.com/marlborolights-cigarettes http://www.protopage.com/dunhill-cigarettes http://www.protopage.com/kent-cigarettes

Rob375
Rob375

Terrible prices don't waste the drive, and when you comment on thereFacebook page they delete it  instead of answering me they deleted it.All they did was mess it up for people who grow by there, now thereforced to pay high prices just like the pharmaceutical companys make $.Thanks for  helping us in pain and your high prices, 250 an ounce is amax get it together PLEASE DO NOT SUPPORT THIS BUSINESS AS THEY ARERUINING IT FOR US IN NEED!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dontbelieveit
Dontbelieveit

Doesn't take a rocket scientist to grow it! .With technoligy we have today it shouldn't be a problem for any one . I for Damn sure can't and wont pay bullshit prices for what I can grow myself . Fucking nonsense from the gate and continues  to be so .!

fairymagic13
fairymagic13

It's time to get out the Hemp Tax Stamps - come on people, let's "GROW" this economy!

Justsayin
Justsayin

Hey, this is AZ. Despite that the voters chose to legalize medical marijuana, any customer of this new facility should be prepared to be watched and even followed by our ever so diligent law enforcement. I would not trust local law enforcement to willingly accept this new business and allow it to operate as it is intended. The opening is a huge step for Arizona, but, with the lengths our state government took to prevent this ought to be writing on the wall for anyone that legally buys from this place and others. If you recall, it took a judge to remind our governor and attorney general that their argument against allowing the voters choice to allow medical marijuana held no water. Regardless of the "law", AZ's finest will continue to go out of their way to derail any efforts behind this voter approved proposition. Welcome to the land of the free.....

DeadStupid
DeadStupid

Maybe USA got it all wrong. Instead , should have only legalized it in 1 state. 

 

Suggesting this idea is like explaining a theorem to a nation with an under developed mind.

cbw4211
cbw4211

Maybe (snowballs in ) this will bring the prices down some. It's insane what medicine costs. I don't think anyone wants to go outside of the law we fought so hard to get, but when pushed to the edge of the poor house for meds, there is something wrong.

Grower
Grower

I will continue to grow, I refuse to pay these outlet ripoff prices.

tromulus
tromulus

The growers may not be in a hurry to donate anything because the dispensaries existence will make it illegal for them to grow.  If they live 25 miles from the dispensary they will be spending a whole lot more on their medicine when they get their new medical card.

barbarian.bob1
barbarian.bob1

 @Justsayin in Canada we would file a class action lawsuit for police harrassment if the sheriff got ahead of himself

fairymagic13
fairymagic13

@barbarian.bob1 @tromulus When one intakes cannabis through the lungs there is a thresehold uptake level which is hit independent of the quality of the product.  High THC levels or not, you can only get so high smoking it.  Higher levels of THC in the plant material does NOT translate into a more intense experience - it's the same whether it's dirt weed or afghan kush.  Now the effect of the cannabis as medicine can be affected by the different cannibinoid levels IF you're juicing it, but that form of intake doesn't get you high.  

ehrlichseb
ehrlichseb

 @fairymagic13 

What you stated is absolutely false.  THC and CBD levels both play roles in how marijuana affects the user.  THC % determines the psychoactive effects whereas CBD % is more of a medicinal/sedative determining factor.

You have obviously never dabbed 98% THC earwax if you believe your own lies.  

Please do some research or know something about the topic before you start spewing falsehoods.

Why is Marinol (100% THC) different than Sativex (50/50 THC/CBD) ?   Because the amount of THC DOES affect the high you receive when smoking it.   

 
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