Pubdate: Thu, 20 Mar 2014
Source: Phoenix New Times (AZ)
Contact:  2014 New Times, Inc.
Author: Ray Stern


The New Prohibitionists of Arizona Arizonans who want to fight 
marijuana prohibition in this state have two strong allies in 
powerful positions: State Senator Kimberly Yee and Yavapai County 
Attorney Sheila Polk. Like would-be leaders of a modern-day women's 
temperance movement, the two Arizona politicians share a strong 
belief that cannabis users deserve to be jailed, and that the 
legalization movement sweeping the country should be literally nipped 
in the buds.

In the latest moves by the pair to thwart the medical-marijuana law 
approved by voters in 2010, Yee has single-handedly blocked a 
proposal to use the state's medical-marijuana fund to help study how 
pot may help certain ailments, and Polk has won a court battle that 
allows her to ban a medical user from using the drug as a condition 
of her probation.

Their latest efforts follow previous actions in targeting marijuana 
and the 2010 law, making the women among the chief 
pot-prohibitionists in the state.

Yee, R-Phoenix, the chair of the senate education committee, today 
refused to bring the study-funding proposal for a hearing -- even 
though it's supported by other Republicans. The bill, sponsored by 
State Representative Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, would have allowed the use 
of funds collected by the state from medical-marijuana cardholders, 
caregivers and dispensaries to pay for government-approved studies.

Dr. Sue Sisley, M.D., has been trying for years to launch a study on 
how marijuana may help people with post-traumatic stress disorder 
(PTSD). Her proposal has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration, the Obama Administration, and the Arizona House of 

Yee never returns our calls, but she reportedly told Fox 10 News, 
(KSAZ-TV), that the reason she didn't want the bill heard was "she 
feels backers of the scientific study want to legalize marijuana, as 
in Colorado or Washington state." Yee claimed she couldn't get her 
Republican colleagues, including sponsor Orr, on the phone to discuss 
the matter. But when Fox 10 News reached Orr, who's on a trade 
mission in Mexico, he seems to have all but called Yee a liar, saying 
Yee won't return his calls.

Sisley and outraged cannabis supporters organized a phone-call blitz, 
but Yee has remained unmoved.

Yee's previous anti-pot efforts include a failed bill that aimed to 
revoke a dispensary's operating license if it didn't properly label a 
marijuana product even once, and another failed bill that would have 
allowed police to destroy seized medical-marijuana, whether or not 
the seizure was legally valid.

Why Yee is such a crusader isn't clear from her background. She's an 
English major who later received a master's degree in public 
administration, a career government employee who once served as a 
cabinet member for former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Polk's rabid anti-marijuana stance is equally hard to figure out. As 
a top law enforcement figure in the state, in a decidedly right-wing 
county, her actions could be reasonably explained as pandering to her 
constituents. But Polk's hardcore opposition to marijuana seems to 
run deep, pushing her to pump out Soviet-style disinformation on the 
subject at times. She's also a co-chair for MATFORCE, an anti-drug 
organization that has taken a political stance against legalizing marijuana.

Earlier this month, Polk led the Yavapai Board of Supervisors to pass 
a resolution supporting marijuana prohibition. When New Times asked 
Board chairman Rowle Simmons why prohibition was better than 
legalization, he said he didn't know -- and that Polk had asked him 
to vote for the resolution, so he did. In an Arizona Court of Appeals 
ruling last month, Polk was allowed to ban a medical-marijuana user 
from using marijuana as a term of probation.

But the court stymied Polk's plan to extend the ban on every person 
taking a plea deal in Yavapai County.

The case stemmed from a DUI bust in which a woman who had a .237 BAC 
was also found to have marijuana in her system. Polk's plea deal for 
the woman ordered her to "not buy, grow, possess, consume or use 
marijuana in any form, whether or not Defendant has a 
medical-marijuana card..." as a term of her probation.

When a trial-court judge struck the provision from the plea deal, 
citing the state's Medical Marijuana Act, Polk told him she would 
divert all change-of-plea cases to a different judge from then on, 
and would try to find judges "more agreeable to the probation term."

In an October 2013 memo Polk circulated after the trial judge's 
decision, Polk explained her reasoning for banning marijuana use by 
anyone taking a plea deal was that "marijuana continues to be banned 
by federal law and is, she believes, a harmful addictive substance."

Polk further explained in the memo that she had instructed her 
prosecutors "to include the standard marijuana provision in every 
plea agreement."

For various reasons, Judges Jon Thompson and Lawrence Winthrop wrote 
in the 2-1 opinion that the trial court had erred by refusing to let 
Polk ban the DUI defendant from using marijuana as a condition of her 
probation, and that the lower court judge should have applied an 
"individualized analysis." (The third appellate judge, Margaret 
Downie, dissented on technical grounds.)

The appeals court supported Polk's "use of this condition" for the 
woman, noting that she had behaved "recklessly and engaged in 
disruptive behavior" while on booze and pot.

Yet the judges drew the line there, saying they "disapproved" of 
Polk's attempt to create a "blanket provision," which they felt would 
"not satisfy the prosecutor's duty to make an individualized 
determination of what is reasonably beneficial to the public good."

We don't know whether Polk has continued to use a blanket provision 
against those taking a plea regardless of the ruling, which stops 
short of ordering her not to do so. Polk was out of the office when 
we tried to reach her today.

No doubt, Polk and Yee, as two of the state's foremost anti-marijuana 
voices, will keep up their fight -- even if they appear to be on the 
losing end of history.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom