By Linda Kor
It’s been nearly four years since voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana ACT (AMMA) and while the debate continues on the legalities of the law, dispensaries such as The Medicine Room in Winslow are taking great strides to expand their operations and educate people on how medical marijuana, also known as cannabis, is a valid treatment for many symptoms of serious disease.
The dispensary on the west end of town is a modest building with one small sign noting the name of the dispensary. Inside the shop is a small lobby with a bullet resistant glass partition that separates visitors from the employees of the dispensary and a watchful camera that ensures security measures remain in place. The actual “shop” of the dispensary is in a separate, locked room. It is there that patients make their selection of goods to purchase.
As part of a recent expansion, a sizable greenhouse is under construction at The Medicine Room. Built as a sort of giant evaporative cooler, the greenhouse will regulate plant temperature while the plants grow to maturity. A 10’ corrugated steel fence with thick steel framework, motion sensors and cameras that cover every inch of the facility surrounds the property with 24-hour remote observance by the dispensary owners and employees. According to one employee, with the security measures in place, anyone who would consider robbing the place would find it a daunting task, especially with police response just minutes away.
Along with the buds of marijuana for sale are a variety of edibles, or “medibles,” for patients looking to avoid the potentially harmful effects of smoking marijuana. The Medicine Room is one of four approved facilities in the state to have its own infusion kitchen. Marijuana infused foods and drinks, such as candies, juices, teas and oils, are created for patients who cannot smoke or choose not to smoke marijuana. The dispensary doesn’t offer baked goods due to the short shelf life, but has butters and other ingredients available to those patients who want to make their own.
With each patient comes different needs, and the employees at the dispensary educate them on the effects of each subspecies of Sativa and Indica, and their different hybrids and strains. They are also notified of safety measures to be taken with each medication and to consult their physician before using cannabis along with other pharmaceutical medications.
According to literature provided by the dispensary, the most prominent and important compounds of cannabis are tetrahydromcanninabol (THC) and cannibinoidal (cbd), but there are more than 80 active cannabinoids in marijuana. THC is the main psychoactive, euphoric ingredient in cannabis, and provides relief of pain, depression and nausea. While CBD lacks the noticeable psychoactive effects, it provides relief of inflammation, muscle spasms, insomnia and anxiety.
Despite being legalized by voters in the state, the use, possession, sale and growing of marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law, which trumps state law. As a result, the line between what will be permitted and what won’t remains unclear for both law enforcement and patients.
In a recent ruling, the needs of a young Mesa boy superseded what law officials felt was a clear violation of the law. Zander Welton, whose parents had been using marijuana extracts to successfully treat the boy’s severe epileptic seizures, found himself in the spotlight when Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery sought criminal charges against the family, claiming that the AMMA did not sanction the use of marijuana extracts.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper disagreed, ruling that nothing in the AMMA limits the form in which patients may use medical marijuana. As a result of that ruling, dispensaries can add extracts as part of their offerings to medical marijuana patients.
The federal government also appears to be softening its perspective on dispensaries. Just last month a bipartisan coalition of House members voted to restrict the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws. The appropriations amendment passed 219-189, prohibiting the DEA from spending funds to arrest state-licensed medical marijuana patients and providers.
While such measures may indicate that the use of marijuana as a medicinal alternative is gaining a new level of acceptance, the stigma attached to the plant is deep rooted and will keep dispensaries such as The Medicine Room working to educate not only patients, but the public in general on the potential of their product.