Tempe City Council to revisit medical marijuana dispensary regulations

Steve White operates Tempe’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Harvest of Tempe, and is campaigning for fewer dispensary regulations by petitioning the city of Tempe's current policies.

Arizona state law dictates it cannot serve anyone under the age of 18 but Tempe does not allow dispensaries to serve anyone under 21 and requires that dispensaries close by 6 p.m. White said he hopes to extend those hours and serve patrons 18 years or older.  

White petitioned Tempe in October to lower the legal age of patients, as well as do away with a one-door requirement for dispensaries.

“We want that age restriction lowered to 18 to be consistent with state law,” White said.

The Tempe City Council will be reviewing the city’s policies on medical marijuana dispensaries Nov. 12 when the council votes on proposed dispensary regulations.

When medical marijuana dispensaries first came to Tempe, White said the differences between state and city regulations were not taken into account.

“Very early on … there were issues we didn’t realize would be issues,” White said. “There were a lot of consequences to those rules.”

Dispensaries such as Harvest of Tempe are legally only allowed to serve individuals with medical marijuana cards. White said his dispensary strictly adheres to this policy.

“We’re not available when there are no legal alternatives,” White said.

While the age limit might make it easier for more college-age students to get access to medical marijuana, ASU does not permit students to smoke marijuana on campus, whether they have a prescription or not.

Read more: ASU student appeals medical marijuana case to the state supreme court

According to the American College Health Association, more than 85 percent of ASU students said they do not smoke marijuana.

This is lower than the national average, which shows more than 30 percent of individuals between 18 and 25 have smoked marijuana in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Tempe City Councilman Joel Navarro said he would like to see the city be more lenient toward medical marijuana dispensaries as well.

“We would just be following state law,” Navarro said. “As long as we stay within the guidelines of state law, we’re going to be fine.”

Navarro said the Tempe City Council originally created stricter regulations than the state has in place because medical marijuana dispensaries were a fairly new venture.

“I think it was a little bit of the unknown,” he said.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there were nearly 83,000 qualifying patients for medical marijuana in Arizona as of September as well as an additional 132 qualifying patients who were under the age of 18.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a student-led organization, has campaigned for drug reform to take place on college campuses across the country. Development Officer Lauren Padgett said the organization has been influential in getting this work accomplished.

Padgett said their work can be complicated due to complacency on the part of their supporters. Changes in marijuana legislation have occurred across the country, which makes it difficult for advocacy organizations that are trying to keep their proponents involved for a long period of time.

“There is sort of a sense that change in marijuana laws is inevitable,” Padgett said.

Related Links:

Former UA researcher seeks new location to conduct marijuana PTSD study

ASU student appeals medical marijuana case to the state supreme court

Reach the reporter at jwbowlin@asu.edu or follow @mrjoshuabowling on Twitter.

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