Pubdate: Fri, 15 Jul 2011
Source: Phoenix New Times (AZ)
Copyright: 2011 New Times, Inc.
Author: Ray Stern
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


One of the defining moments of the latest war on medical marijuana in 
Arizona came last month when Gilbert SWAT officers raided the home of 
a patient suspected of having a single ounce of weed.

Ross Taylor's not only a bona fide, card-holding patient under the 
law, he also is the owner of the Cannabis Screening Centers, a 
business that hooks up people with doctors willing to recommend the 
use of marijuana.

He's a marijuana advocate, and he's a professional in what, since 
November, has been a legal industry. In April, he spoke about his 
business before the Gilbert Planning and Zoning Department. On June 
9, he was in the process of moving into his new home in south 
Gilbert, near Higley and Riggs roads. He'd taken title to the home a 
day earlier; online records show that it was sold on June 8 for $262,200.

Before his movers came, a DIRECTV installer had been setting up a 
satellite connection in an upstairs bedroom. While doing his work in 
the room's closet, the installer happened to see baggies of pot in 
two jars. After he finished the job, the installer called Gilbert police.

About 6:30 p.m., 11 police officers in masks and riot gear gathered 
outside the home.

This well-armed team of anti-dope crusaders carried a warrant signed 
by Highland Justice of the Peace Dan Dodge. The warrant shows police 
were investigating nothing more serious than a possession case, and 
the suspected amount of marijuana held by Taylor isn't specified. 
Police later said they were concerned that Taylor had an ounce of 
marijuana in his home. JP Dodge was never told that Taylor was 
legally allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana under the 
voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Despite the new law, Arizona still is one of the few states in which 
possession of any amount of marijuana (unless you have a 
patient-registration card handy) is considered a felony. By all 
appearances, this was a major felony bust.

The cops cut the power and water, presumably to prevent any 
contraband from going down the toilet or garbage disposal, then 
pounded on the door and yelled for someone to open up. Taylor did so, 
and nine of the officers stormed into his new home. Two others waited 
outside, watching the front and back yards.

Some of the members of Gilbert's Special Investigations unit and 
SWAT-trained Criminal Apprehension Team were wearing masks and 
carrying shields. They displayed handguns, rifles, and shotguns in 
the "ready" position as they entered, according to a police report.

"They started screaming, 'Search warrant!'" Taylor tells New Times. 
"They said to turn around and walk toward the door.

"Luckily," he adds, "my son, who's 2 1/2, wasn't there."

The police report states that four men and a woman were taken out of 
the house. Another "disabled" woman on the second floor would have 
been a problem to remove from the home, so she was allowed to stay inside.

The report doesn't mention, however, that three of the men extracted 
from the home were from the All My Sons moving company.

Kevin Anderson, the company's local branch manager, confirms that the 
officers put the movers in handcuffs along with Taylor and his wife 
and detained them all for about an hour while a search of the home 
was conducted.

The police report, authored by Gilbert Detective Craig Avery, states 
that the bust was in "reference [to] an ongoing narcotics 
investigation" and that Avery was told by Sergeant Benny Fisher about 
Taylor's "making comments about selling marijuana."

As New Times reported in a June 16 Valley Fever blog post before the 
July 1 release of the police report, Sergeant Bill Balafas, the 
police department's spokesman, said the reason for the raid was that 
the Gilbert PD had received a tip that the homeowner was in 
possession of about an ounce of marijuana.

Balafas told the East Valley Tribune for a June 17 article that "the 
satellite worker who reported the possession told investigators that 
Taylor said he was selling the marijuana."

Taylor says an officer asked him whether he was dealing weed, and he 
denied it, though that exchange isn't mentioned in the report. 
Nothing else in the report supports the accusation, and police didn't 
state a word about it in the search warrant they requested from JP Dodge.

A spokesman at DIRECTV's headquarters assured New Times that he would 
check on the story of the snitching satellite installer and call 
back, but he never did.

Taylor recalls how the installer mentioned the marijuana he'd spotted 
in the closet.

"It's okay," Taylor says he told the man. "I'm a medical-marijuana 
patient, and I've got a card."

Naturally, Taylor says, he produced his card - which contains his 
photograph. He says one of the raiding officers, a guy in a ski mask, 
told him, "I don't know even know if you're supposed to have this card."

The officer, Taylor says, referred to the lawsuit filed in federal 
court against the state's medical-marijuana law six weeks ago by 
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and state Attorney General Tom Horne.

For all their intense efforts, the raiding party found about two 
ounces of pot in Taylor's closet, "a small chunk of hashish," and 
some pipes. Taylor readily admitted the stuff was his. After all, it 
weighed less than the statutory limit for cardholders.

Taylor's card, one of thousands issued by the state Department of 
Health Services since April 14, was valid on the day of the raid. In 
the search warrant signed by the JP, Detective Avery lists the 
training he's undergone as a narcotics officer -- noticeably missing 
is any training on the new medical-marijuana law. Police later called 
the DHS -- not a prosecutor's office -- and asked an employee how the 
suspect could have legally obtained the marijuana. At least, that's 
what Avery's report states. A DHS official could not confirm this 
part of the story.

Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn refused repeated requests for an 
interview. He's made his spokesman, Balafas, do all the talking. And 
judging from what Balafas says, Dorn and his department either are 
confused about what the law says.

Or the Gilbert PD has gone rogue.

Proposition 203 was approved by Arizona voters in November and is now 
the law of the land. Yet for the second time since 1996, attempts to 
legalize medical marijuana by the voters of Arizona are getting thwarted.

Recent decisions by Governor Brewer and Attorney General Horne have 
effectively ended what had been, until May, a peaceful rollout of a 
law passed by the initiative process.

Applications for dispensaries, the marijuana stores where patients 
legally would buy their "medicine," were supposed to have begun being 
taken by the Department of Health Services on June 1. The law allows 
124 dispensaries statewide, a figure based on a percentage of the 
state's pharmacies. As New Times explored in a February 3 article 
about the then-budding dispensary business ("Pot of Gold"), 
investors, entrepreneurs, and a wide range of professional-service 
providers were lining up for a chance to be on the ground floor of a 
hoped-for billion-dollar industry. It appeared that nearly every one 
of the 124 geographically dispersed slots offered by the DHS would be 
home to a dispensary.Given that many cities across the Valley have 
approved zoning applications for some of these planned businesses in 
the past few weeks, it's possible that some of the stores would have 
been opened by now. Since the bulk of the dispensaries' products 
would have been grown in the state by licensed cultivators (the 
exception being that qualified patients could legally donate weed at 
no charge to the dispensaries), DHS officials had predicted that the 
stores would be open by this fall.

A slim majority -- but still a majority -- of Arizona voters said 
"yes" in November's election to the idea of medicinal marijuana and 
pot stores for patients.

But because Brewer and Horne say "no," the stores are now on hold -- 
indefinitely. On May 27, the two Republican leaders filed suit in 
U.S. District Court in Phoenix as plaintiffs against the new statute, 
asking for a declaratory judgment on whether it is legal under federal law.

They say they're worried about the potential liability to state 
employees who would administer the program and process dispensary licenses.

They claim that because of this alleged risk, a "time-out" is needed 
for the industry, which would bring thousands of new jobs to 
economically depressed Arizona. Just days before excited 
entrepreneurs were to begin submitting their dispensary applications, 
Brewer ordered the DHS to reject applications for dispensaries.

The farcical element here is that the governor and state attorney 
general know full well that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act 
authorizes activity that is now illegal under federal law. Federal 
judges are unlikely to say otherwise, if they say anything at all.

Brewer and Horne are siding against Arizona voters, citing federal 
law enforcement's warning signals to upstart states with 
medical-marijuana laws.

Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have now legalized the medical 
use of marijuana. In more than half of these states, including in 
Arizona, voters approved medical marijuana directly at the ballot box.

But as commercial marijuana operations have grown in accordance with 
state laws, the Justice Department has pushed back. Starting in 
February, U.S. Attorneys in these states began sending threat-letters 
to state officials. President Barack Obama's administration warned 
that nearly anyone involved with distributing, selling, or growing 
marijuana faces potential prosecution and/or asset forfeiture, 
despite state laws to the contrary.

With another 10 states considering medical marijuana, the nation's 
medical-pot industry has become a states' rights issue.

Though they are rejecting the "will of the people" when it comes to 
medical marijuana, Brewer and Horne firmly are behind voters' wishes 
when it suits their political needs. For example, they are spending 
hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on the legal defense of 
voter-approved anti-illegal-immigrant legislation such as Senate Bill 
1070 and Proposition 200, which requires (among other things) proof 
of citizenship before individuals can register to vote. (Horne argued 
personally in favor of Prop 200 before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court 
of Appeals last month.)

Brewer and Horne aren't spending a dime to defend the Arizona Medical 
Marijuana Act, of course. Staunch conservatives, they made their ill 
feelings toward the law apparent before voters approved it. Indeed, 
they're spending public money to fight what state voters want.

Brewer, through her spokesman, claims she first considered the idea 
of the lawsuit and the rejection of dispensary applications following 
a May 2 warning letter to the DHS by Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke.

But as this article will detail, the governor's staff and AG Horne 
considered the actions well before then. And they took their cues, in 
part, from Keep AZ Drug Free -- the political group that campaigned 
unsuccessfully against the law last year.

State residents who have lived here for a while may be experiencing 
deja vu watching their leaders go against what voters have approved. 
In 1996, voters passed the state's first medical-marijuana law by a 
2-1 margin. Lawmakers gutted the law by passing legislation that put 
its provisions on hold. Voters struck back two years later by passing 
the law again at roughly the same margin, but that law also ran into 
difficulties. To keep the state Legislature from tinkering with any 
part of a legally approved initiative, voters then approved the Voter 
Protection Act.

This forced anti-marijuana crusaders to take a different tack this 
time -- the governor and AG's federal lawsuit.

Still, all of the state's Marijuana Act hasn't been canceled or put 
on hold by the top state officials' actions. Unlike the 1996 and 1998 
pot laws, this one has teeth.

Under the older laws, a doctor had to prescribe marijuana. But the 
federal prescription program is overseen by the DEA, which threatened 
to pull drug-prescribing powers from any doctor who dared authorize 
pot for a patient.

The new law relies on a more casual recommendation from doctors 
instead of prescriptions. More importantly, the Arizona law has a 
self-enacting clause.

Had Brewer ordered the DHS to stop taking applications for patients, 
the clause would have been triggered. This would have meant that 
anyone eligible to obtain a doctor's recommendation for marijuana 
could grow and possess it legally.

This is why the DHS has continued to accept and process about 100 new 
applications a day for patient-registration cards. Ninety-eight 
percent are getting approved.

The latest DHS stats show that since the first applications rolled in 
April 14, more than 6,550 qualified patients have been allowed to 
legally possess marijuana under state law, with 75 percent legally 
allowed to grow up to 12 plants for their own use. Another 186 
registered "caregivers" can grow up to 12 plants each, for as many as 
five patients each.

With the absence of dispensaries, "compassion" clubs -- which allow 
patients and caregivers to share marijuana with other patients -- 
have opened across the Valley. For example, the 2811 Club LLC, run by 
industry marketer Allan Sobol, collects $75 in "dues" from 
member-patients each time they show up and openly touts its 
for-profit nature. Patients receive up to an eighth of an ounce of 
"high-grade" marijuana for "free" as a membership benefit.

While the top-down, highly bureaucratic system mandated by the new 
law remains stalled, Brewer and Horne's actions mean that a 
medical-marijuana culture is rising from the ground up in Arizona.

Without question, the feds have issued ominous statements about pot 
businesses in recent months.

The stance of the Justice Department has surprised some supporters of 
President Obama, who stated before and after his 2008 election that 
he favored marijuana decriminalization.

In 2008, Obama called it a waste of resources to "have the Justice 
Department prosecuting and raiding medical-marijuana users." And 
after he became president, his administration put that philosophy 
into action with the groundbreaking October 2009 Ogden Memo, which 
stated that the feds would have a hands-off approach to 
medical-marijuana programs that comply with state laws. The memo 
kicked such programs into high gear, especially in California and 
Colorado. The two states, where growers and distributors already were 
serving thousands of state-authorized qualified pot patients in a 
relatively low-key way, suddenly exploded with highly visible dispensaries.

With the increase in plans for super-size commercial growing and 
distribution enterprises, Obama's Justice Department appears to be 
re-thinking the situation.

Federal officials have issued a new round of warnings. The first was 
in California, arguably the most pro-pot state (considering it nearly 
legalized marijuana by popular vote in 2010).

The Oakland City Council, in the spirit of California's freely 
running medical-marijuana industry, decided in January to move 
forward with licenses for pot-cultivation facilities of up to 50,000 
square feet. Nothing that big had been tried openly before, and it's 
unclear whether the plan was in accordance with California law. 
Regardless, the city's leaders figured it was a great way to bring in 
millions of tax dollars during bad economic times.

In a letter dated February 1 and made public a few days later, 
Northern California U.S Attorney Melinda Haag advised Oakland that 
such facilities could run afoul of federal law officers, who would 
"vigorously" go after people who grew and sold pot, "even if such 
activities are permitted under state law."

Even those indirectly involved could be in trouble, she warned: 
"Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, 
including property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know 
that their conduct violates federal law."

The Haag letter kicked off a series of several similar letters from 
U.S. Attorneys in the following weeks. One, sent by Washington 
state's U.S. Attorney on April 14, mentioned specifically that state 
workers who participated in a licensing scheme could be held 
accountable. Because of that, on April 30, Washington Governor 
Christy Gregoire vetoed part of a new medical-pot law that authorized 
dispensaries and cultivation facilities.

Arizona U.S. Attorney Burke's May 2 letter to the DHS said nothing 
about state workers, but it threatened that the feds might go after 
"large" pot-growing facilities. He didn't define what "large" meant.

Coming less than a month before the DHS' planned licensing of 
pot-growing operations, on which the state law had placed no size 
limits, the letter warned that complying with the state statute gave 
no one "safe harbor." Besides the pot-growing and distribution 
businesses, property owners who leased space to the businesses could 
be subject to prosecution or asset seizure based on federal laws, Burke stated.

Even so, many people are willing to take the risk, noting that the 
feds have not tried to close down the hundreds of medical-marijuana 
businesses supplying patients nationwide. For instance, the DEA made 
well-publicized raids of two West Hollywood, California, dispensaries 
in March, but two other popular shops in the same area were untouched 
and remain open. So far, raids by federal officials have targeted 
only businesses that aren't complying with state laws.

The letters from the U.S. Attorneys to their states make clear that 
the Justice Department will not target qualified marijuana patients. 
But, paradoxically, businesses supplying these card-holding patients 
have been threatened with prosecution.

The Obama administration is waffling, but Brewer and Horne certainly aren't.

Despite the lack of federal prosecutions around the country 
(particularly in neighboring California, which has a far more liberal 
law) and the fact that Burke has suggested his office has no interest 
in arresting state workers who process the new Arizona statute, the 
GOP duo claim in their suit that the law must be held up to protect 
state workers.

After Brewer stated publicly that Burke's letter prompted her to file 
the suit out of concern for state employees, the U.S. Attorney shot 
back to local independent reporter Howie Fischer: "It's fair to read 
into my letter what I included and what I didn't. And if I didn't 
include state employees, I think that's telling in itself."

Further, Burke told the Arizona Republic after Brewer's announcement 
that though he had to point out that no one was immune from federal 
law, he would not direct federal law enforcement to target "people 
who were implementing or were in compliance with state law."

Between his written and verbal statements, Arizona's U.S. Attorney 
suggests that he supports state voters in a way that Brewer and Horne 
clearly do not.

Carolyn Short's a sharp-minded lawyer who's spent much of her life as 
a stay-at-home mom. She's highly motivated and has lots of time on 
her hands. She's been a volunteer for anti-drug groups for years and 
sees the passage of Prop 203 as a disaster.

Like many marijuana prohibitionists, Short plays fast and loose with the facts.

She's publicly claimed that her stepdaughter is a meth user whose 
drug addiction began with marijuana, yet the Christian conservative 
admitted to New Times before the election that she keeps alcohol in 
her fridge and claims she doesn't know whether her stepdaughter tried 
booze before pot.

A few days after Brewer and Horne put the kibosh on Arizona's 
dispensary system, New Times called the Reefer Madness-style 
propagandist on the suspicion that she'd had something to do with it. 
This prompted Short to release an eyebrow-raising letter that she'd 
sent on February 16 to DHS Director Will Humble:

"On January 10, 2011, [former Arizona U.S. Attorney] Paul Charlton 
and I met with Attorney General Horne to discuss our conclusion that 
implementation of Prop 203 would subject you and other ADHS employees 
to federal prosecution for violating the Controlled Substances Act ('CSA').

"AG Horne suggested that he could file a declaratory judgment action, 
asking a court to determine whether the implementation of Arizona's 
law would subject you and other ADHS employees to the risk of federal 
prosecution under the CSA."

Short's letter also stated that, two weeks after the January meeting, 
Horne told her "he would not file a declaratory judgment action 
because his 'client, Will Humble' did not want him to."

Brewer refuses to talk to New Times about this development or about 
other aspects of the medical-marijuana law, but her spokesman, Matt 
Benson, says the governor never has met Short and isn't working with 
her to defeat the voter-approved initiative. Benson says Brewer 
didn't know about Horne's meeting with Short, the discussion about a 
lawsuit, or Horne's subsequent discussion with Humble on the issue.

Benson claims "it's neither here nor there" that Horne and Short 
discussed the lawsuit in January -- or that Humble opposed it. 
Brewer's decision to allow the program to roll out unhindered until 
Burke's letter proves there was no pre-planned scheme, he argues.

Yet the state's keeping secrets.

Neither Horne nor Humble will comment on the details of their talks 
about filing the lawsuit and halting the dispensary process. Lawyers 
with the Attorney General's Office penned a memo that reportedly 
describes the legal theories behind these decisions, but the governor 
won't release it publicly.

Benson claims Brewer wants to maintain her attorney-client privilege 
with Horne's office by not releasing the letter.

For her part, Short remains candid about her group's goal to sink the 
new law through legal means.

"We did not stop working after the law passed," she says.

Neither did her allies Brewer and Horne.

Arizona's never seen a business quite like the Arizona Compassion 
Club. The club operates out of offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa -- 
and representatives say more locations are coming soon. In the suite 
at 2701 East Thomas Road, the strong smell of marijuana greets visitors.

This is just one of the front lines in Brewer and Horne's war. As 
it's turning out, the state leaders' actions have had an unintended 
consequence: They've given a boost to caregiver cooperatives and 
patient clubs, seemingly proving that the opposition can't really 
fence in Arizona's marijuana law.

The compassion club on Thomas Road isn't fancy. It's a low-budget, 
but professional-looking, place where qualified Arizona patients can 
obtain pot. Inside the small waiting area are a few chairs and a 
flat-screen TV showing medical-pot-themed videos. A glass panel, 
covered with posters listing strains of marijuana and what ailments 
each strain may be best for treating, separates another room that's 
furnished minimally with two folding tables. In this room, staff 
members meet with patients to discuss the club's rules and to 
distribute marijuana.

The club helps a patient-advocacy group, the Arizona Cannabis 
Society, distribute "free" marijuana to patients, as state law 
apparently allows. Available medicine includes ready-to-smoke buds, 
marijuana-infused foods, and tinctures made from pot plants. Unlike 
at dispensaries in other states, marijuana isn't displayed on shelves.

Nick Monte introduces himself as one of the main staff members at 
Arizona Compassion Club. He and another club member, Bill Hayes of 
the Cannabis Society, explain how the club has managed to stay open 
since April without police interference: It all comes down to ARS 
36-2811, a codified portion of the Marijuana Act that prohibits legal 
prosecution or any penalties for possession and transfer of less than 
2.5 ounces of marijuana between caregivers or qualified patients. 
Under the provision, nothing of value can be transferred in exchange 
for marijuana.

Members pay a small fee when they join, then make donations that 
entitle them to receive marijuana from the club. The concept may 
appear to be a thinly disguised sales scheme, in that patients often 
leave the club offices with pot and less money. However, operators 
are confident that they're operating within the legal boundaries of 
the new law.

"Someone [had] to step up to the plate," Monte says. "There are 
plenty of patients out there in need."

Monte and other staff members won't allow anyone without a state 
registration card to join the club; they also scrutinize every 
membership card with a black light that makes a hidden hologram glow. 
Hayes says he advised the club to refuse any patient who didn't 
appear "100 percent legitimate."

Hayes says, "We work other jobs -- we're volunteers [at the club]."

Staff members wear their own state registration cards on lanyards 
around their necks, in part as protection in case police barge in. 
This hasn't happened yet. Uniformed cops have been in the Thomas Road 
suite for alarm calls and to see what was going on, Monte says, but 
they have taken no action toward shutting down the suite.

The club claims about 700 members who have maladies ranging from 
cancer to the most common qualifying ailment, "chronic and severe 
pain." Pot-friendly doctors refer patients to the club, and, 
conveniently, one doctor-recommendation business is in an adjoining 
suite. Monte says the club also receives referrals from 
drug-rehabilitation centers, whose clinicians see legal pot as a way 
to wean addicts off heroin and other hard drugs.

Without the club, its member patients would have a harder time 
getting their marijuana. Now, instead of fueling the black market or 
Mexican drug cartels, they're obtaining marijuana that probably was 
grown locally. Apparently, some members of the pot club and 
affiliated advocacy group started growing marijuana after the law 
passed but before state registration cards became available in April. 
It's questionable whether that early start was legal under the law, 
but they believe they have legal cover because Brewer signed the 
Marijuana Act in late November.

Sobol, who opened a similar club on July 4, says he "doesn't need to 
know" where a separate association that fills his club members' needs 
gets its marijuana. But he notes that a caregiver who also is a 
card-carrying patient can grow up to 72 plants legally and that might 
create a lot of "excess" medicine that can then be legally donated to 
other patients.

However it arrived, the marijuana is available, and legal patients 
are helping themselves to it with or without state-approved 
dispensaries. Compassion clubs and caregiver cooperatives, managed by 
advocates willing to deal with the risks of federal prosecution, 
appear to be the wave of the future.

When New Times asked the Phoenix Police Department its thoughts on 
the new clubs, spokesman Steve Martos said the PPD has no official 
opinion but is checking into the Phoenix operations.

Presumably, this means that the department is sending in undercover 
cops to see whether the clubs are doing something illegal.

"I'm not worried," Monte says. "We're not doing anything wrong. We're 
just trying to provide a service to patients."

As of press time for this article, the Arizona Compassion Club's 
three locations and Sobol's club still were open.

At the local level, it remains to be seen how prosecutors will react 
to the new law.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery opposed Prop 203 strongly 
during the initiative's campaign. Jerry Cobb, Montgomery's spokesman, 
says the office has handled only a couple of simple cases involving 
medical-marijuana patients.

In one, a man who'd been busted for possession in 2009 and never 
showed up for court was "picked up," he says. This time, the man had 
a state-issued registration card. But the law doesn't "grandfather 
in" such people, Cobb says, so it didn't protect him.

Another case involved a man who was arrested and claimed he was an 
approved patient but didn't have the card on him. "When he presented 
the card, the case was dismissed," Cobb says.

Montgomery hasn't yet seen three possession cases involving 
medical-marijuana patients stemming from Gilbert Police Department 
actions in June, including the one targeting Ross Taylor.

The Gilbert PD hadn't submitted the cases for potential prosecution 
as of press time but says it intends to do so.

Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn and some of his officers apparently 
hold unsupported beliefs about the new marijuana law, casting doubt 
on the appropriateness of their actions in two of the three cases.

During the raid on Taylor's home, Gilbert officers interrogated 
Taylor about where he obtained his pot. Bill Balafas, Dorn's 
spokesman, admits that the department's stance is that if Taylor 
obtained pot from any source other than a marijuana dispensary or by 
growing it himself, he can't legally possess it.

But this is not true. The law states clearly in a stand-alone statute 
that patients legally can possess up to the 2.5 ounces. Nothing about 
the source is mentioned.

Also, the police report says Taylor told officers (and he also told 
New Times) that he'd gotten the pot from a friend in Prescott. Even 
on the "FAQ" section of the DHS' website, the state says patients can 
legally obtain marijuana from other patients. The police report on 
Taylor's case states that officers contacted the DHS to ask how 
individuals could legally obtain and possess marijuana. The cops were 
told, according to the report, that the "only options" are for 
patients to grow it themselves or have it grown by designated caregivers.

DHS officials say they don't know who among their staff may have 
talked to the Gilbert PD.

About midnight on June 20, a Gilbert police officer pulled over a 
22-year-old man who allegedly had failed to come to a complete stop 
as he pulled out of a Filiberto's parking lot. When he walked up to 
the car, the officer claimed he smelled "an overwhelming odor of 
fresh marijuana" in the car, a police report states.

The driver, who talked to New Times on the condition that his name 
not be published, showed the officer four small baggies of marijuana 
and his patient-registration card. The pot weighed only about a 
half-ounce, but the officer questioned the man about where he'd 
gotten it. A friend gave it to him, the driver said.

The cop told him that unless he grew it himself, he couldn't legally 
possess it, despite his card, the driver tells New Times. And the 
motorist had another problem.

Because of his bloodshot eyes, leg tremors, and "greenish tint" on 
his tongue, the officer wrote that he suspected the driver was under 
the influence. The suspect claimed he'd last used marijuana a couple 
of days earlier, then changed his story and said it had been that 
morning. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Balafas, a trained drug-recognition expert, says marijuana can affect 
drivers up to 12 or even 24 hours after its use. Though that claim 
sounds dubious, Gilbert town prosecutor Lynn Arouh says convictions 
in marijuana DUI cases can be easy to win because a state law 
prohibits driving with any trace of marijuana in the bloodstream. The 
Arizona Medical Marijuana Act shields patients from this strict 
standard -- but not when the state can prove that the driver was 
impaired at the time of the traffic stop.

As for the question of how the pot was obtained: It's irrelevant to 
many Valley police agencies.

Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe don't even take a report in such 
cases, as long as the qualified patient possesses less than the 
2.5-ounce maximum. Even having the card isn't a requirement: All 
that's needed is the 20-digit registration number that police verify 
with the DHS.

"We are not going to be booking" cardholders who possess less than 
the limit, says PPD Sergeant Steve Martos. "That would be in direct 
violation of the law."

For Gilbert resident Ross Taylor, the hashish presents more possible 
trouble. The new Marijuana Act doesn't specifically reference a 
separate statute in Arizona law that classifies hash as a narcotic, 
even though it's made from pot plants without the addition of any other drugs.

Prosecuting cardholding patients for a small amount of hash would 
seem to fly against the spirit of the law. It'll be interesting to 
see how Montgomery handles this one. If hash possession remains a 
felony, the makers of marijuana edibles will see their style cramped 
a bit, since making hash often is the first step in producing certain 
pot-infused food items, such as cookies and ice cream.

Gilbert police might see better prosecutorial results stemming from 
another raid in late June involving an unlicensed business called the 
Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group.

The business' owner, Garry Ferguson, is a medical-marijuana patient 
who has suffered from pain, a severe limp, and mobility problems 
since a 2003 motorcycle collision. Unemployed, Ferguson came to Tempe 
from a family homestead in Sanders a few weeks ago after realizing 
that his interest in the medical-marijuana cause and making money 
might be brought together because of the new law.

Ferguson admits that he sold marijuana openly from a Tempe office at 
2011 East Fifth Street to hundreds of card-carrying patients, many of 
whom were referred by doctors' offices. But he may have misapplied 
the law. Unlike those of the compassion clubs, Ferguson says, his 
actions were covered under a different part of the medical-marijuana 
law that mentions how cardholders are prohibited from selling pot to 
anyone who doesn't have a card. This means cardholders can sell to 
other cardholders, he says. Lawyers contacted by New Times aren't so 
sure, and an answer won't be available until -- or if -- a prosecutor 
tries a case testing the principle.

Whether the Tempe Police Department knew about the operation is 
unclear, but Gilbert police ended up receiving a tip about Ferguson's 
place. On June 16, a report states, Gilbert Officer Josh Wybron 
entered the business dressed in street clothes and saw what looked 
like illegal drug transactions, five marijuana plants growing in 
pots, people freely smoking marijuana, and various jars of pot and 
"eatables" displayed openly in the office.

Wybron signaled other officers. Gilbert cops detained five people and 
seized the suspected contraband. But in a nod to the confusion 
Gilbert officers apparently feel about the new law, no one was taken to jail.

Gilbert hasn't yet submitted charges to prosecutors. Ferguson says he 
and everyone else in the office at that time are registered patients.

The day after the raid, New Times interviewed a defiant Ferguson, who 
said he told the officers, "I'm going to continue doing tomorrow what 
I'm doing today."

True to his word, he showed New Times several pot plants he'd brought 
into the office. A couple of "customers" came in and apparently 
obtained their marijuana. Ferguson says he's still in business but 
now operates more along the "donation" lines of the compassion clubs.

But he gripes that hundreds of patients he was serving stopped coming 
after the raid, and only a few diehards remain. "I'll be out of here 
in a few days," he says.

Perhaps his patients defected to the more cautious and law-abiding 
compassion clubs that he's trying to mimic.

Two days before the July 4 holiday weekend, the Justice Department 
dropped the Big One:

Following the letters sent by the U.S. Attorneys to their pro-pot 
states, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole on June 28 issued an 
awaited "clarification" to the 2009 Ogden Memo.

Like the preceding letters, the clarification stops well short of a 
heavy-handed slap-down of the states' programs. Cole's letter to the 
U.S. Attorneys in all 50 states reiterates the Obama Administration's 
concept of not targeting patients and small-time caregivers. But it 
emphasizes a potential threat to businesses that would supply the patients.

The Controlled Substances Act, Cole notes, allows for wide-ranging 
enforcement that includes targeting "proceeds" of marijuana 
businesses. People who engage in such businesses, he writes, face 
"potential prosecution" subject to the discretion of each U.S. Attorney.

Governor Brewer quickly announced that the Cole letter proves she 
took "the proper course of action" in halting the dispensary industry 
and filing the lawsuit. But it appears she and Horne still are 
exaggerating the threat as political cover for their voter-violating actions.

In a news release about the Cole letter, Horne states that the feds 
"will" prosecute people who facilitate commercial marijuana 
operations. In fact, Cole's letter states that he's giving "guidance" 
to U.S. Attorneys, who have "broad discretion" on how to handle enforcement.

In other words, Arizona could be handling this situation differently: 
State leaders could implement the law as voters intended, then fight 
for the rights of voters if and when the feds did something.

Industry experts and hopeful dispensary owners in Arizona tell New 
Times that Brewer's actions have scared off some dispensary 
investors. Between Brewer and the feds, more delays in the 
development of a medical-marijuana industry in Arizona are a given, 
says Vincent Palazzotto, executive director of the national Medical 
Marijuana Patient Association.

But the California resident says he sees "no one" closing up shop in 
California because of the Cole letter, which should be a lesson in Arizona.

"They'll be willing to take this the whole way," Palazzotto says of 
members of the California medical-pot industry.

Patients and their advocates have struck back against 
anti-medical-marijuana forces in Arizona, filing two lawsuits in 
Maricopa County Superior Court that aim to stop Brewer and Horne's 
interference. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Association (made up of 
the same people as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, 
which put Prop 203 on the ballot) and other advocates argued a motion 
in federal court recently that Brewer's lawsuit should be dismissed 
because of "lack of jurisdiction or . . . failure to state a claim on 
which relief can be granted."

The advocates are represented, in part, by lawyers from the American 
Civil Liberties Union.

As the legal battle shapes up, Carolyn Short's anti-drug group is 
plotting to put a repeal of the law before voters in the 2012 election.

All of which is to say that the fight over medical marijuana is far from over.

Yet as of July, despite Brewer's actions, most police agencies are 
following the rules outlined in the new law.

And marijuana cultivation, patient-to-patient "gifts," and patient 
cooperatives are becoming more common.

For the growing number of medical-marijuana users, the new state 
statute is working as voters intended.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom