Phoenix marijuana-cultivation center soon to open is 1st in nation
Around her, dozens of other registered caregivers erected their own grow tents and hauled in boxes of high-pressure sodium lights and duct systems to prepare for the opening of the 5,000-square-foot medical-marijuana cultivation center, soon to be a headquarters of sorts for 45 caregivers and 500 green leafy plants.
The center, near Seventh Avenue and Loop 101 is the first of its kind in the nation, its operators said, and provides a central location for caregivers to grow cannibus for patients with maladies ranging from cancer to chronic pain. Compassion First Caregivers Circle Inc. set up the center.
At 64, Shockley has lived with pain for a decade or so. Her hands are swollen with arthritis, a disease she inherited from her mother. Shockley can’t make a fist, and sometimes her joints hurt so badly it’s difficult to write.
She’s tried everything to numb the constant aching — over-the-counter pills, cortisone shots and high-powered prescription pain relievers.
Eventually, she discovered the only remedy that numbed the pain — pot. For years, she self-medicated by secretly toking on a joint or eating pot brownies. She bought the pot from friends and neighbors. But now, she will grow her own at the cultivation center.
With the voter-approved medical-marijuana law, she can legally grow the drug for herself since she is registered as a caregiver with the state Department of Health Services, and she can distribute it to other cardholders.
“Nothing has touched the pain except for marijuana,” she said. “Now, I can finally help myself legally, and help other patients who need it.”
Under the law, passed by voters in 2010, people with certain debilitating medical conditions can use pot. They must register with the state, which issues ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers.
The state has been embroiled in legal disputes over application of the law, but it appears most of those fights are over. Since there are not yet any licensed pot dispensaries, caregivers and patients can grow their own marijuana, up to 12 plants per person.
Several marijuana “clubs,” which provide patients with medical marijuana, already have opened up in the Valley. They immediately drew concern from state officials, who filed suit to close them.
About 1,065 caregivers and 18,000 patients are registered with the state.
This cultivation center is operated by Scottsdale philanthropist and businessman Gerald Gaines.
The center will open with a soft launch on Saturday, and will be fully up and running on Feb. 18. Gaines plans on opening a center in south Phoenix and a third in Tempe.
Under the center’s model, caregivers will charge patients market rate for the pot, about $300 per ounce, Gaines said. Under state rules, caregivers can sell to five patients. Caregivers cannot make a profit on the pot and cannot charge for their time. The growers will donate extra monetary proceeds or the marijuana itself to charity, he said. Generally, he said, patients use one-eighth of an ounce per week while heavier users can consume three-fourths of an ounce per week. One plant typically generates four ounces of marijuana.
During a recent tour, jars of the dried drug with names like “white queen,” “purple urkle” and “Afghan kush” sat on a table. Growers can manipulate the drug’s potency through different strains to treat different conditions and ailments.
“That’s why medical marijuana has so much promise,” Gaines said. “And this center is a way to get as many patients as much medicine as they need.”
On-hand expertise from pot consultants drew Jeff Moriarity to the center.
A licensed patient and caregiver, the 67-year-old said he can learn how to grow marijuana right.
On this day, Moriarity is really hurting. He suffers from hardening of the arteries and lactic acid build-up in both legs. It’s hurts to vacuum, and he has to rest after walking 100 feet.
“I thought ‘What the heck?’ and tried it at a friend’s house once,” he recalled. “Then, I went for a long walk — and my legs didn’t hurt. So, I decided to grow it so I can make sure it’s fine and dandy with no pesticides.”
Armed guards, security cameras and alarms will protect the marijuana plants around the clock, Gaines said, adding that he also doesn’t expect local law enforcement to hassle them.
“We’re abiding by the law so we don’t expect any problems,” he said.
Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said law enforcement are cautioning people to closely follow the medical-marijuana law to prevent run-ins with the police.
“This is a new kind of program, a new kind of business, and so we’re just telling folks to read the law and follow the law,” Martos said.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery would not comment on the opening of the center, a spokesman said, citing potential future litigation regarding medical marijuana.
Angel Rodriguez, a caregiver, grow consultant and former medic with the military, set up shop at the center partly because of a run-in with the cops.
His patients’ maladies range from kidney failure to cancer.
“I grew it out of my home for a little bit, but now I’m trying to help other people grow,” said Rodriguez, 34. “I want to help patients any way I can.”