Medical-Marijuana Dispensary Won't Trigger 25-Mile Cultivation Ban Just Yet, DHS Decides; Arizona Organix is Approved, but Not Open

No need to put away the fluorescent bulbs just yet:

It turns out that Arizona first state-authorized medical-marijuana dispensary won't trigger a ban on patient and caregiver grow-rooms, at least in the short term.

The state Department of Health Services has granted a "short delay in the effective date for their Operating License in order to ensure that things run smoothly when they officially begin operations," writes DHS Director Will Humble this afternoon in his blog.

The length of the delay wasn't specified, but for now, new and renewing patients filing applications with the state to legally possess marijuana will still be allowed growing privileges.

The approval of Arizona Organix by state Department of Health Services inspectors on Thursday meant the dispensary could immediately begin selling marijuana to qualified patients under the state's 2010 medical-pot law. As Humble reminded the public last week, the voter-approved law prohibits patients and caregivers from growing weed if a dispensary is within 25 miles.

"Beginning tomorrow we'll be declining new 'requests to cultivate' among new cardholders in most of the metro area..." Humble wrote on November 15. Existing patients with grow rights who were within the exclusion zone would be able to keep the lights on until their annual registration cards came up for renewal.

The "25-mile rule" in the law was meant to ease the concerns of some members of the public who fear the proliferation of small, indoor pot farms.

But Organix hasn't opened yet, and the owners say it might not open for a few more weeks. We know what you're thinking -- that's total injustice for new patients, who could neither buy pot at the unopened dispensary nor grow it themselves.

At least one reader of our blog post last week about the store was none too happy with the situation:

MandyMountain If they don't have a cultivation site yet, it will be months before they are open. Why did the DHS then quit issuing growing permits? If they set up this week end it would be at least three months from seed to harvest and another month to dry & cure.

In fact, as another reader pointed out to us today, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act states that an "operating dispensary" within 25 miles triggers the ban on what Humble calls "self-grow." Arizona Organix may be approved to operate, but it's clearly not operating yet.

Now, the ban apparently won't begin until the place opens.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.