Story by Chase Kamp
Since April 2011, when the voter-approved
Arizona Medical Marijuana Act took effect,
more than 36,000 state residents have received
licenses to legally treat various conditions with
medically grown marijuana.
The Harvest of Tempe medical cannabis
dispensary aims to celebrate these patients and
further promote the plant’s medicinal uses at its
Patient Appreciation Day event Saturday, Nov. 16.
The event, to be held at 710 W. Elliot Road,
Tempe, also seeks to raise funds for patients caught
in legal entanglements or unable to afford their
prescribed medicinal marijuana.
Steve White, board member at Harvest of
Tempe and law partner at White Berberian PLC, said
several foundations will be on hand to discuss the
treatment benefits of marijuana for a slew of serious
Among the groups participating will be the
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, HIV
Foundation and Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
White asserted that these mainstream health
organizations are making their first forays into
medical marijuana events like his.
He hesitated to say the groups wholly advocate
medical cannabis, but argued that they are beginning
to acknowledge the conversations patients are having
Arizona’s medical marijuana program got off to
a rocky start: Medical cards were issued to patients
months before the dispensary program was up and
The state is also working out the kinks in
regard to marijuana extracts and oils, which are
used in edibles and other non-smoking consumption
methods that dispensaries advocate as healthier
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery
has insisted that marijuana extracts are not covered
under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
White argued, though, that it is illogical
to decriminalize plants but not its derivatives,
effectively limiting the consumption options
dispensaries can provide. He also said a big problem
for patients in the Arizona program is a complete
lack of insurance coverage for their medical cannabis,
which may have fewer side-effects than other
“They have to come out of pocket for [medical
marijuana], whereas traditional opiates or other
medications are covered,” he said.
Despite the political controversy of state
medical marijuana programs, White said Harvest of
Tempe has found no resistance whatsoever from the
community in its few years of operation.
“We haven’t gotten a single complaint,” he said.
He attributes some of it to the city of Tempe’s
strict regulations as well as program oversight by
local police, but mostly due to the group’s diligence
in following state statutes. “We’ve tried to maintain a
model operation,” he said.
State programs like Arizona’s are facing less
scrutiny from the federal government. The U.S.
Department of Justice issued a memo asserting
state programs will face federal intervention on only
certain criteria, such as marijuana sale to minors or
aiding in criminal enterprises like gangs.
White said the Nov. 16 event intends to aid
those with questions about the the legal intricacies
of the state program, as well as speak to those who
question marijuana’s medical potential.
For most people who end up changing their
mind about medical marijuana, he said, it most often
happens through interaction with a patient that has
been helped by the treatment.
“When you start to hear [their stories],” he said,
“it’s very difficult to be an opponent.”