Despite Legal Risks, Arizona Cannabis Collective Still Open a Week After Launch

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Elements Caregiver Collective generated a lot of hype last week when it opened in Phoenix, attracting the attention of newspapers, medical pot blogs and TV stations with plans to add 200 jobs and provide patients with medical marijuana.

The owners, after all, took a huge risk given that authorities have shut down similar collectives as of late.

But so far it’s working, as Elements Caregiver is still open and providing patients with pot a week after its launch.

Arizona has taken a hard line against medical marijuana since last spring, when the state’s governor delayed the implementation of a voter-approved system for distributing marijuana to patients. Although the state still issues patients medical pot cards, dispensaries are technically illegal at this point as Gov. Jan Brewer awaits the outcome of a lawsuit against the federal government on MMJ issues.

To work around these laws, small groups of patients have formed “compassion clubs” to distribute weed they grow to others with MMJ cards in exchange for donations. But authorities have shut most of them down, arguing that they essentially are engaged in selling marijuana.

Elements Caregiver, however, believes that it is neither a compassion club or a dispensary in the traditional sense of the word, and boldly said before its launch that it wouldn’t be shut down because it is following the law. What makes it different?  The collective argues that it gets marijuana from licensed caregivers in return for “reasonable” donations and then offers its members. These members are all card-carrying patients who pay a monthly fee of between $74 and $150 for access to the cannabis as well as educational classes and wellness services.

In  other words, the center essentially hooks up caregivers – which are allowed under the law – with patients. The facility includes a refrigerated vending machine stocked with air-tight cans of marijuana, an oxygen bar, 15 strains of cannabis, head shop goods and a kitchen to make edibles.

Yes, it’s only been a week. And there’s not guarantee the place won’t be shut down in the coming days or months. But authorities knew well in advance about Elements Caregiver’s opening, and so far they have yet to act.