Medical marijuana patients face obstacles

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PHOENIX - “I lost my leg June 3, 2009,” Billy Sample said.

Sample suffers from chronic pain and finds relief with medical marijuana. He’s one of nearly 15,000 Arizonans who are legally allowed to possess the drug.

“By law right now you can grow 12 plants yourself," Sample said. “I'm growing 10.”

Patients like Sample now have to grow their own marijuana after a federal lawsuit put medical marijuana dispensaries in this state on hold.

“So now we have a different trend of people coming in who weren't initially going to grow, but now they're going to grow their own because there's nowhere to go to buy it,” Sunny Singh said.

Singh is with weGrow in Phoenix, a hydroponics superstore that has built custom grow rooms in patients' homes.

“We're here to help the people who really need this as a medicine so that's our goal,” Singh said.

But not having access to medical marijuana dispensaries isn't the only obstacle. Many Valley patients worry about federal prosecution.

“They're at risk, not because state law prohibits it, but because federal law still prohibits the possession, growth, distribution, sale of marijuana,” Ed Novak said.

Novak, a partner at Polsinelli Shughart law firm, believes the likelihood of federal prosecution is still questionable.

“Whether the federal priorities and resources will be put to that particular issue that is, ‘I grow 10 plants for my own use,’” Novak said. “Do I really have a legitimate fear that there will be a federal search warrant served on me someday? These are questions that are difficult to answer.”

However, the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana operations in California and other states have some wondering if the Obama administration has changed its tune.

Two years ago, few resources were put in place to monitor medical marijuana users or caregivers as long as they were in compliance with their own state laws.

“If they said you better stop growing, I would definitely stop growing because I'm not going to go to jail,” Sample said.

He believes the people of Arizona spoke out when they voted for Prop 203.

“I want to thank them for listening to the people voting and acknowledging that fact that there are people that need this,” Sample said.

For more information on the Arizona medical marijuana program, log onto