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.