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Updated Aug 17, 2014 - 3:02 pm

Arizona judge upholds denial for marijuana grower

PHOENIX -- An administrative law judge in Phoenix denied a Gold Canyon man's effort this month to keep growing medical marijuana at his home in spite of his proximity to a dispensary.

The judge upheld the Arizona Department of Health Services' denial Tuesday of Arlin Troutt's request to renew his cultivation status. Troutt had been growing marijuana for his own use before the dispensary opened but was denied upon renewal of his medical marijuana card.

Troutt argued in court that the 25-mile requirement should apply to the round-trip distance from the cardholder's address. Living in a rural area, Trott said it took him 26 miles to back and forth from a dispensary that the department identified as being less than 8 miles from him. He also called the 25-mile requirement a violation of the Constitution's equal protection clause.

According to current state law, a patient becomes ineligible for cultivation rights if a dispensary opens within range.

``While Mr. Troutt may have difficulty locating a product that is suitable for his use, that does not necessitate a finding that he is entitled to cultivate in violation of the statute and regulation,'' Judge Tammy Eigenheer wrote.

The judge also found there was no evidence that the statutes were unconstitutional.

State health officials, however, are looking into revising how the 25-mile law is applied. DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley said more public hearings on the matter need to take place. So, no decisions would be finalized until summer of next year.

Ken Sobel, a Tucson attorney who has argued cases related to medical marijuana, said the law should be based on highway or travel distance ``as opposed to as the crow flies.'' It would ease the burden for rural patients, he added.

``It will be a positive thing because it will at least account for those folks that may technically be within 25 miles (to a dispensary), but it may take them an hour to go that 25 miles,'' Sobel said.

More than 54,000 people currently hold medical marijuana cards in Arizona. According to Department of Health Services data, the number of medical marijuana cardholders granted cultivation status has undergone a sharp drop in the last year. In June 2013, more than 21,000 qualified patients and caregivers had permission to grow. As of last June, more than 2,500 qualified.

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