Posted 10:08 PM 12/27/2012 : Illegal pot can be cheaper than dispensaries
TUCSON - Buying medical marijuana from a dispensary can be more expensive than buying illegally.
The value of "commercial" or inexpensive marijuana on the street is $80 to $100 per ounce, according to the Tucson Police Department. That is the type that is mass produced outdoors and usually smuggled from Mexico. Premium hydroponic marijuana is much more expensive.
A quarter ounce of medical marijuana from Tucson's only dispensary, Southern Arizona Integrated Therapies, ranges from $75 to $130. That makes it at least 3 times more than cheap, illegal marijuana.
Kimberly Haslett started Southwest Arizona Patient Alliance to help people who need medical marijuana. She also uses medical marijuana.
"It's very confusing to a lot of people," she said, "so I try to just break it down so they understand."
She said many of the people she talks to have little money but need the drugs.
"They're not going to be able to afford that medicine," Haslett said. "Some of them are going to be forced to go back to the black market."
Patients have to get cards that allow them to buy and possess medical marijuana. They cost $150 and expire every year.
Patients can grow their own marijuana if they live more than 25 miles away from a dispensary. That number is linear, not based on miles driven. Tucson has a dispensary at Broadway Boulevard and Kolb Road. That covers almost the entire Tucson Metro Area.
"These are sick people," Haslett said. "Some of them can't even go to the grocery store, much less make an 80-mile round trip every time they need medicine."
Haslett wants to help dispensaries create a voluntary program for low-income people. She would help qualify applicants for "compassionate pricing" to keep people away from the black market.
"If they need the relief, there may not be an incentive," Haslett said, "and that's what we want to do."
Haslett said prices will drop as more dispensaries are approved.
"There are 98 more that are going to open," she said. "I think competitively, prices will go down."
She does not blame dispensaries for high prices.
"They are incurring a lot of costs before they even open their doors," Haslett said. "It's a very high risk industry right now, and I have a lot of respect for them."
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