Your Guide to Arizona's Medical Marijuana Farmers Market
Chitral Hays -- not his real name -- is Jackalope Ranch's resident expert on medical marijuana in Arizona. In Perfectly Blunt, Hays delivers news, reviews, and must-know info.
Wait a sec, there's a medical marijuana farmers market? Indeed, fellow cannabis savants. Hosted by CAMP420 (Campaign Against Marijuana Prohibition's AZ chapter), the medical farmers market is an expo for all things related to medicinal ganja, where the motto is "The cannabis is free!*" You'll need your medical card to get in, which you present at the door, but once you have your wristband, you're pretty much free to roam around. You can find strains from all over the state; discover tinctures, salves, and ointments; inspect all kinds of smoking, toking and inhalation devices; and sample edibles, many of which are homemade and come in nearly every form you can think of: cupcakes, brownies, ice cream, cookies, hot sauce, chocolate, candy, and even soda.
The market's held twice a month at alternating locations. The place I usually head to is in Arcadia, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 720 near 48th Street and Thomas. The building is as nondescript as they come, a faded-beige stucco square that could be a vacant pawn shop or garage. But all the leaf-adorned signs and the fact that the parking lot is overflowing with cars, spilling over to the church across the street, indicate there's more inside.
Oh, is there.
Packed with caregivers, growers, doctors, bakers, patients, and others attached to the industry, the market is abuzz with the kind of homegrown excitement (and sometimes a bit of a nervous edge, given the quasi-legal nature of our cards) that can only be associated with cannabis. It's hard to pin down a stereotypical attendee, as the connoisseurs come from all walks of life. You have your folks in tie-dye, sandal/sock combos, and T-shirts with the McDonald's logo made from pot leaves, but also average Joes, soccer moms, metal heads, gang bangers, hipsters, old folks, and, well, let's just be honest here: anyone that can get sick and use marijuana to heal themselves can and will be present.
There are about 30 tables, a DJ booth, a kitchen, and an area to sample forced-air vaporizers (the kind with the giant balloons). Each booth offers something unique, whether it's different strains, edibles, tinctures, or balms. The only things you won't find are hash, concentrates, or waxes; their legal status is uncertain. You can see clones of plants. However, you're only allowed to have them if you're authorized to cultivate. To qualify to grow, you must live farther than 25 miles from a state-licensed dispensary. Since 95.2 percent of Arizonans are within that range (you can check a map here), it's not likely that you'll be able to do this, but they are nice to look at.
Some caregivers will have gigantic magnifying glasses set up so you can get up close and personal with those trichomes. You can open the jars and smell that heaven. And if you make a few rounds of the tables, sampling the different candy, brownies and toffees, you'll be grinning uncontrollably in no time.
Admission is $10, but usually you can get half-off if you bring canned goods to be donated to St. Mary's Food Bank. Hours and locations can vary from Phoenix to Tempe and Glendale, so check out www.medicalfarmersmarket.com for a complete calendar and a map.
Keep in mind, there are some important rules to follow. You can't smoke on the premises and only folks with medical cards are allowed in. The amount of weed that you leave with is not tracked, but you should still make sure you are within the legal boundaries of 2.5 ounces, your two-week limit, as mandated by state law. Cameras, cell phones, and video aren't allowed. Neither are backpacks, large bags, or purses. Out-of-state cards are not honored, nor is pending program ID paperwork. Some booths, but not all, accept credit and debit cards, so you better bring cash.
*Important to remember: All of the cannabis is free here, because under state law it is illegal to exchange money for medical marijuana unless you are a licensed dispensary. But that doesn't mean you can just grab a Safeway bag and load up. Instead, you purchase a raffle ticket from vendors (prices differ from booth to booth from about $10 to $15) and then you can ask for the cannabis you want. You'll also be entered to win such prizes as nifty-looking bongs or a free ounce every month for a year. Last the farmers market counted, they had more than 100 different strains under one roof, making this program a fantastic way for patients to explore options they never knew they had.
Who are the folks running this machine? CAMP 420 has been doing this for two and a half years. It's a group of activists (despite the fact that this event is for-profit) that is working to decriminalize marijuana in Arizona. They're working to repeal the aforementioned 25-mile grow law and they're behind other events such as the Third Annual Arizona Canna Kush Fest, a benefit to raise money to campaign for medical-marijuana activism. If you want to be a part of the farmers market and host a table, it costs $150 to $180 at the VFW locations. You can apply online at the farmers market website.
Video showing the farmers market.
As for vendors, many of them are patients themselves or caregivers licensed to cultivate. Kevin [last name redacted] of Hi-Me Happy's Incredibles has a unique case. His partner of 30 years had cancer. So Kevin made edibles for him as he went through two years of chemo and radiation and eventually succumbed to the cancer. But Kevin continued concocting edibles, and now he makes different flavors of salsa, barbecue sauce, syrup, and pastries infused with THC.
"It's been a year since he passed. I attribute my whole edible line and what I do for patients to him because I do it in his memory," Kevin says. "He would want me to go on, and I had to have something to keep me occupied, and that's what I chose to do because I'm actually disabled. I do it out of the kindness of my heart and I probably give away more of my product than I actually donate."
Kevin adds: "To me [the farmers market] is all about the medications and people seeing the capabilities of it. And they're endless. With marijuana, you can put it in just about everything. As long as you don't alter it with chemicals and stuff. It by itself does amazing things. I've met thousands of people in the last year that come back and say, you know, nothing else worked. But your stuff does work. I've been on pain medication for 14 years and now I'm completely off of all the pain medication thanks to marijuana."
Then there are folks like Raul [last name redacted], of Raul's Vapor Emporium, who specializes in electronic joints, which are similar to electronic cigarettes. Using a liquid that's similar to liquid nicotine, patients can discretely vaporize their medicine using one of his pens. Raul says he prefers the farmers markets to the dispensaries, because there's a lot more availability and the prices are far more competitive.
"A lot of dispensaries don't carry ... edibles. None of that," Raul says. "They don't carry the lotions or the soaps. The lotions and the soaps do work. They do get to the pain area and numb the pain."
Finally, I spoke to Bonnie [last name redacted], who runs Happy Daze Products, a line of T-shirts, THC-infused sodas, including ginger ale, lemonade and green tea, and nut bars.
The farmers market has "gotten a lot of medicine or marijuana to people that are really ill and need it [that] I was never exposed to before," Bonnie says. "A lot of people go, 'Oh, that medical stuff is just a ruse.' No. Really, I see so many people that were helped and [helping others] makes you feel good. Our drinks are geared for patients. They're not geared for stoners."
But Bonnie says she won't be doing business with the farmers markets anymore. "Personally, I'm disgusted, because the people that run it have made it so costly that it doesn't pay to be there," Bonnie says. "They're taking advantage way too much. And a lot of people have no other way of getting to the public except through the market, which is not cost effective."
As of this writing, CAMP 420 has not returned our calls. But it does seem, given the evidence, that the medical-marijuana farmers market is doing a lot of good for the patient community. Perhaps, more importantly than giving people access to the Blue Dream brownies of their choice, it's giving people the ability to network and make progress with their medicine.
Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.