Arlin Troutt, Marijuana Activist, Vows to Appeal Ruling on Arizona Cultivation Limit
Troutt did grow for a time, he says. He describes the day in 2012 that Pinal County Sheriff's Office deputies raided his property after someone reported that he had plants growing outdoors. He says Sheriff Paul Babeu got on the phone to the supervising deputy and told him to stand down. (We didn't check up on the claim.)
For Troutt and an estimated 98 percent of patients these days, however, the cultivation approval has been withdrawn because of the opening of medical-marijuana dispensaries.
Under a provision of the Arizona medical-marijuana law, the application that patients submit to the state must include, "A designation as to who will be allowed to cultivate marijuana plants for the qualifying patient's medical use if a registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary is not operating within 25 miles of the qualifying patient's home."
That's the basis for the 25-mile rule. The state Department of Health Services, which oversees the medical-marijuana system, further codified the cultivation restriction in its official rules and procedures. Officials set up the dispensary system so that most of the state would be covered by a 25-mile radius around each dispensary, ensuring that the areas where patients could still grow their own pot legally were few and far between.
The 25-mile rule, as part of the ballot proposition, was mentioned in the press, in DHS director Will Humble's blog, and before the 2010 election, and in the "Analysis by Legislative Council" section of the official state pre-election publicity pamphlet.
Troutt, however, believes that people should have the right to grow marijuana freely.
When he applied to renew his medical-marijuana card in May, he checked the box on the application stating "requesting to cultivate," even though several dispensaries had opened up within seven or more miles from his rural home. A warning popped up in the online application, telling him that dispensaries were within 25 miles of his residence, and that his cultivation request would be denied.
Troutt challenged the denial, leading to a hearing that took place on July 23. Troutt made several arguments: The 25 miles should include round-trip mileage, not one-way; the medical-marijuana act merely requires patients living 25 miles or more from a dispensary to designate who's growing their pot, but doesn't restrict them from growing it entirely; that the dispensaries near his home didn't sell the organic, non-moldy marijuana he needed.
Arbitrary geographic areas were designed to make most of the state a no-go zone for medical-marijuana cultivation.
Judge Tammy Eigenheer's nine-page ruling doesn't spend much time dissecting Troutt's arguments, saying a couple of times that the state's interpretation of the law is "entitled to deference." She agreed with the DHS argument that if the law couldn't be interpreted as placing a 25-mile restriction on cultivation around dispensaries, the statute's phrase about cultivating if a dispensary "is not operating" within 25 miles of the patient's home would have no meaning.
"The Department's position provides a fair and sensible result and properly reflects the intent of the electorate," the judge wrote, affirming that the DHS has the right to reject Troutt's ability to grow.
In an interview this morning, Troutt fumes that the state's position most certainly does not reflect the "intent of the electorate." He says the intent of the electorate was to reduce "the damage of prohibition" and make marijuana widely available for medicinal use. But he maintains the law doesn't say patients can't grow pot within 25 miles of a dispensary.
He goes off on a critical tirade for a few minutes about the DHS ("racketeering," he says), the Marijuana Policy Project, (he calls the group that put Proposition 203 on the ballot, "Marijuana Policing for Profit,") and the current dispensary situation that includes "bags of cash" being transported due to a lack of access to legal banking.
The price of dispensary marijuana is outrageous, Troutt complains, arguing that it would be cheap enough if more growers got into the act. He plans to appeal Eigenheer's ruling to the Maricopa County Superior Court and see how far he gets.
"I ain't never gonna change," Troutt says.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.