Does Health Care Choice Include Grow-Your-Own Medical Marijuana?

August 26, 2013

Two medical marijuana patients are hoping a voter-approved attack on the Affordable Care Act gives them the right to grow their own drugs. An Arizona ballot measure put a provision in the state Constitution overriding any law, rule or regulation that requires individuals or employers to participate in any particular health-care system. Sponsors said it was aimed directly at the plan Congress enacted requiring individuals to obtain health coverage or pay a fine. But attorney Michael Walz said it also helps his two clients. Like most medical marijuana patients, they were initially granted the right to grow up to 12 plants since there was no legal place to buy marijuana. Now there are dozens of dispensaries statewide. And the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, approved by voters in 2010, says anyone within 25 miles of a dispensary has to obtain their drugs there. So his clients, along with about 95 percent of the 40,000 medical marijuana users in the state, lost their growing privileges. Walz said that interferes with their now-guaranteed constitutional right of health care choice.

“If the state said, no, you can't have aloe plants in your house, you have to go to the local pharmacy and get aloe lotion, if it has God-knows-what preservatives in it, if that were the situation, that would be the same argument,” Walz said.

Will Humble, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, isn’t buying the argument that a constitutional right of health care choice entitles medical marijuana patients to grow their own supply.

“Let me put it this way: Are people allowed to grow their own amoxicillin?” Humble said. “So if the argument is, this is medication, do people grow their own Xanax? No!”

Humble said it makes sense to have most medical marijuana users obtain their drugs through a state-regulated system of growers and dispensaries. That requires those with licenses to account for their inventory.

 

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