Arizona has been a veritable battleground on the topic of medical marijuana, since voters decided to legalize medical marijuana last November. With very little in the way of precedent, lawmakers, entrepreneurs and citizens struggle to determine fair solutions within the confusing confines of the state’s law. The newest development in the medical marijuana climate sees state Attorney General Tom Horne calling the legality of cannabis clubs into question.
Cannabis Buyers Clubs, as they’re formally known, are venues for patients who do not have a dispensary nearby to fulfill their needs. Citizens who have legally obtained their medical marijuana prescription can join the club, where they are able to trade marijuana products in a safe, regulated area. Patients who grow for personal use can give their excess to others, with somewhat of a social contract obligating that person to pass it along, so to speak.
To an outside observer, the situation may at first glance seem like little more than chaos. It is easy for the uninformed mind to conjure up images of grungy druggies, shadily handing brown bags full of money or pot between each other. In reality, the purpose of the clubs are to avoid exactly that situation.
Al Sobol, owner of one of the more popular cannabis clubs, argues that his club is simply a medium that allows for transactions to be held in a “safe, dignified way.” For the nominal fee of $25, a medical marijuana patient can join as a member to Sobol’s club. From that point on, only a $75 entrance fee stands between a license-holder and an exhibition of cannabis, with products provided by the Arizona Compassion Club.
Attorney General Horne is skeptical of the validity of these clubs, and essentially asked an Arizona judge to shut down the three most prominent of them. He protests that they “falsely claim to be operating lawfully under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.” The former state superintendent has a bit of history as an anti-pot crusader. He co-filed the lawsuit with Governor Jan Brewer in May, which asked a federal judge to rule on Arizonan medical marijuana law. A federal attorney has countermanded his suggestion and filed a motion to dismiss the case, which may be partially responsible for the latest efforts.
Horne was quoted suggesting, “(if) it was a place for the patients to go and transfer marijuana for no fee, I suppose it wouldn’t be a problem.” However, the purpose of the club is to allow patients to trade between each other. The only fees included are venue fees, essentially covering the price of the building and overhead required for such an organization. It’s an equivalent system to a church or other non-profit organization, in that payments are needed to keep the place open, but nobody is making any direct transactions beyond that.
Ironically, Horne is working to destroy the few legitimate ways for patients to acquire marijuana and throwing them right into the open arms of the black market. He is not alone in his efforts either; Arizona patients have been getting arrested despite compliance with the state law. Arizona attorney Ryan Hurley tells 420petition that “in one case, authorities are trying to charge a legal patient with marijuana possession simply because they were’t growing plants, and thus (according to police) must have gotten it illegally.” Hurley also indicated that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is aiming to succeed Horne and so has been working to undermine the medical marijuana law as part of a tough-on-crime image. Of course, back in reality, Arizona drug dealers could hardly find a better candidate.
Sobol, whose club is one of the three attacked by Horne, insists that they’ve “done everything to try to be totally honest.” He goes on to say, “we believe that this is completely compliant with state law.” When questioned, Arizona Compassion Club spokesman Nick Monte assured listeners that his club is acting completely within the confines of the law. He also contends that if the clubs were illegal, officials would have intervened.
Tom Horne’s rampage against marijuana seems to be more transparent and desperate as time goes on. His appeals to federal courts are telling of his ulterior motive to involve the federal government into his state’s affairs. If he were to succeed in getting a ruling in favor of his inclinations, it could make life much more difficult for rural users of medical cannabis. However, his plight may be losing steam, and positive views of marijuana are on the rise.
Disclaimer: These opinions and statements made in these posts are solely the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinion of 420 Petition and its parent company.