Tucson to consider allowing outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana

Tucson to consider allowing outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson city council members heard a presentation about the way medical marijuana is grown and sold in the city on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Council members are considering allowing local dispensaries to expand in size, as well as grow medical marijuana outdoors.

Right now, zoning laws only allow for indoor cultivation of the plant.

City officials said even if they approve outdoor cultivation, it would still have to be behind a 10-foot wall, as per state regulations.

Industry experts said these potential changes would be a big win for the city and a big leap for the medical marijuana industry in Tucson, putting them forefront in the state as a competitive market in which to operate a facility.

Experts said it is a matter of supply and demand.

More ways to cultivate the plant would mean more product, which would ultimately mean lower prices for cardholders in the state.

It could also lead to more sales-tax revenue for the city and the state.

Jean Paul Genet, who operates two dispensaries and two cultivation sites in the city, said business has been booming, and they are struggling to keep up with the demand.

On occasion, they have had to buy their product from warehouses in Phoenix, because supply was low in Tucson.

According to industry consultant Pamela Epstein with Green Wise Consulting, a company that represents many medical marijuana facilities in California and Arizona, the latest numbers released by the Arizona Department of Health Services paint a rosy picture for Arizona.

Epstein said in 2014, there was an estimated gross revenue of about $110 million, and a 33 percent surge in cardholders in the first 10 months of 2015.

She added that with dispensaries on par to sell 586,000 ounces of medical marijuana, which is more than an 80 percent increase since 2014, the sales-tax revenue would be significant.

Industry experts hailed outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana as another mechanism in which to cultivate the cannabis plant, which would provide additional strains for patients.

Epstein said outdoor growing requires less equipment and could harness the use of the sun.

It is unclear if growing the medical cannabis outdoors in this hot climate and soil would create a good product, but Genet said he is excited to test it out.

He did not want to disclose his business plans, but said there is a great potential to grow products that have no THC, the ingredient that creates the so called "high" from marijuana consumption.

He feels that if successful, it would be a great tool to draw big investors into the Tucson community.

"We have an industry that is burgeoning. Everywhere else in the country people are going 'Wow.' Wall Street is going 'Wow' about the potential," Genet said.

He first started his business with eight employees.

Today, he said he has about 40 staff members on his payroll, and he expects that number to grow in the next few years.

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