By the time a client parks their car and walks up to the front doors of Harvest of Tempe, the southeast Valley’s only medical marijuana dispensary, he or she, their license plate, and their car have all been caught on camera.

No sunglasses or hats are allowed inside the building, which has cement planters out front and a scissor gate crossing the one and only entrance during off hours. Patients are greeted at the door and once they complete a verification process, handing their information through bullet-proof glass, they’re buzzed through a loud and heavy door into a room with samples and highly trained employees on hand to help them select the best strain of medical marijuana for their condition.

Once they select their product the transaction takes place through bullet-proof glass. The patient is given their product, which is always in a sealed and labeled bag, inside a nondescript brown paper bag, and they’re free to exit out the same door they entered.

When the store is closed there are multiple alarms and motion detectors and even with the best tools it would take five or six hours to break into the company’s vault where all products are stored.

It’s a lot of security for a business that the owners say isn’t actually known for raising crime rates at all.

“That’s the hysteria,” said Steve White, an attorney who is a board member for Harvest of Tempe. “Objective studies show that there is no increase in crime associated with these facilities. The fear is when you put a product that is available in an elicit market together with the perception of large amounts of cash that there is an incentive for someone to try and break in, but it doesn’t actually happen. The Tempe Police Department has those concerns — we get it. We decided to go along with everything they asked.”

White said they involved neighboring businesses and the Tempe Police Department in designs for their facility and all stages of planning. It took nearly three years, but Harvest of Tempe finally opened its doors for patients on May 4.

Even with all the security, from the outside the sleek design of the building keeps it from looking intimidating or like the fortress that it is. The facility is even equipped with an elaborate filtration system to keep the air free of any smells inside or outside of the building.

The entire process has been costly and difficult addressing restrictive city of Tempe ordinances, following police recommendations and trying to keep the environment open and comfortable for patients, but White said it’s worth it. The board of directors for Harvest is confident it has one of the most secure facilities in the country.

“It’s a decision we’ve made,” he said. “Early on, it’s not going to be a super successful business. We’d rather have everybody feel comfortable with it and be a little less successful. We look at it as it’s more than brick and mortar. We’re trying to be a part of a movement. In order to do that you have to make some sacrifices sometimes.”

Harvest has 22 strains of medical cannabis available. Their supply comes from donors and soon they’ll be opening their own warehouse, far away from the city, to grow their own — within state restrictions. Each sample is tested by a third-party laboratory and the results of those tests are available for patients upon request.

Medical cannabis can be useful for a wide array of medical conditions and different strains can help in different ways. All staff at Harvest have gone through training with a medical director, an expert on the different flowers, and a public health advocate among other professionals to help them advise patients on the best strain for them.

The owners of Harvest originally sought a site in Ahwatukee Foothills. Many members of the board of directors are Ahwatukee residents. They were the company to receive a variance for a site near 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard but because of the site’s proximity to schools, decided not to pursue opening a dispensary in Ahwatukee.

For more information on Harvest of Tempe, 710 W. Elliot Road, visit or call (480) 777-2100.

There is a company, Nature’s Healing Center, attempting to open a dispensary in Ahwatukee. Because of the way the state law has been organized Ahwatukee will have one dispensary. Nature’s Healing Center has a license that allows them to open a dispensary, but they can only open in Ahwatukee. Nature’s Healing Center has identified a location at 48th Street and Warner Road, which is being considered by the city of Phoenix. It was originally scheduled for a public zoning adjustment hearing on Thursday, May 9, but has been pushed back. The hearing is now scheduled for Thursday, May 23.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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