The Medical Marijuana Program might come to a halt due to Sun City applicants

PHOENIX — Attorney General Tom Horne has placed Sun City front and center in his effort to keep medical marijuana dispensaries from opening throughout Arizona.

Horne said he intends to intervene in a legal fight between Maricopa County and the owner of a clinic that wants to open a marijuana dispensary in Sun City.

White Mountain Health Center Inc.’s operated by Jeff Kaufman, Ari Schaefer and Daryl “Butch” Williams plans have been thwarted because the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, acting under advice of County Attorney Bill Montgomery, refused to provide the necessary zoning certification.

White Mountain has plans to open a dispensary at 15249 N. 99th Ave., Suite B. The company has filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging the county stalled its application in order to prevent the business from obtaining a state license.

The attorney general figures the Sun City proposal could become a test case for the larger issue of whether government agencies can process requests to do something that remains a crime under federal law.

By extension, that would require a judge to decide if federal law trumps the provisions of the 2010 voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which specifically authorizes people with certain ailments to possess the drug and those licensed by the state to sell it to them.

On Thursday, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a waiver that will allow Horne to try to close down the marijuana dispensaries that her state health department is in the process of licensing.

The move comes in the wake of Horne’s formal legal opinion that the state cannot legally permit anyone to sell marijuana, even only to those who have a doctor’s recommendation to use the drug. Horne said as long as the drug remains illegal under federal law, the state is powerless to authorize anything to the contrary.

But the governor said Thursday she does not intend to block Health Director Will Humble from continuing the process of issuing state permits. And Humble, who conducted a lottery Tuesday to see who gets to serve each of the 126 health districts in the state, said the first of those shops could be open by the end of the month.

An issue arises because the Attorney General’s Office represents all state agencies. That means it would be up to Horne’s lawyers to defend the Department of Health Services in any legal proceeding challenging its actions.

“I gave him a waiver and put kind of a wall between Mr. Horne and myself so that he could represent this position and he could still represent me with other attorneys on the other side,’’ Brewer said.

Horne said the arrangement will allow one of his deputies to continue to provide legal advice to Humble even as he personally pursues a court order declaring the dispensaries preempted by federal law.

But he insisted a potential case over the proposed site in Sun City won’t create a situation where he will be facing off in court against one of his deputies.

“The health department isn’t taking a position,’’ Horne said, meaning that his office won’t have someone representing the agency at the hearing to defend the legality of the dispensaries even as he works to shut them down.

And he said the fact that the health department is going ahead with the licensing of the dispensaries does not mean it believes operation of the outlets is legal.

“They’re proceeding right now because that’s their duty,’’ he said.

Brewer pointed out that she had some concerns about the legality of the dispensaries and specifically whether state health workers who process the licenses could be charged with violating the federal Controlled Substances Act for “facilitating’’ others to obtain the drug. She even had ordered Humble not to process the applications.

“I took it to court and I was ruled against, (with a judge) saying that I had to implement the law,’’ Brewer recalled Thursday. “So we moved forward under the direction of the court.’’

But the governor said Horne and Montgomery remain free to try to shut down the dispensaries anyway.

“If they believe they have a reason to think they can get that overturned, they have that right and privilege to do that,’’ Brewer said. “But in the meantime we have and will continue to move forward until we hear differently.’’

The fact that Horne is joining forces with Montgomery in the Sun City case does not mean he shares all of the county attorney’s views about how far Arizona can go with its medical marijuana law.

Montgomery said he believes all portions of the law are preempted, including the ability of the health department to issue cards entitling those with a doctor’s recommendation to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. The county attorney said he hopes to get a ruling that would allow him to advise police officers that they are free to arrest those who possess marijuana even if they have a state-issued card.

Horne, in his formal legal opinion, said he does not believe that the Controlled Substances Act prevents the state from issuing cards that identify people as medical marijuana users who are exempt from arrest under state drug laws.

“It is beyond Congress’ power to dictate the parameters of state criminal conduct,’’ he wrote.

Horne said courts are not bound by formal opinions of the attorney general. “But they do treat them with respect,’’ he said.

3 comments for “The Medical Marijuana Program might come to a halt due to Sun City applicants

  1. Tessa
    August 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Ok then come get me and the 30k other VOTER APPROVED patients. I would love to see the reaction of the tax payers of this so called broke state when they all are spending millions on public defenders and law suites and new prisons for the sick and poor as our education and health care system crashes. Maybe there would be riots and civil unrest which is way past due. You people who run our country are a bunch of punks and bullies and treasonous SOBs. The people have spoken, not just here but in many states and the President was to protect us. You forget who you work for. You don’t work for the US Government you work for the people. But hey, do what you have too. I would never plead out, I will cost the state tens of thousands as they prove my mental and physical states, and I will make as much noise doing it as I can. And I am not alone. How dare you support big pharmacy over the peoples will. I was on over 23 medications for over 4 yrs and had zero life. Never saw my grand-kids, then last summer my daughter committed suicide and I said I was stopping as many scripts as I could. I took my meager 1 yrs back pay ( which took me three years to get SSI to do its job) and invested in a small but adequate garden. Not cheap, hard work considering, a year of study and hit and miss and how dare you arrest me. So go ahead.. break this state, break this country you mis-guided fool. Why are you wasting time and money on this issue you stupid stupid man? We have other issues demanding attention, real issues, USA is failing in a big way, only number one in military spending, religious fanaticism and incarceration of our civilians ( more then China and Russia combined) and the majority are minor drug charges, Our prisons are privatized as is our DOC and security systems so who do you work for? No us, that is obvious. I hope your ousted after you bankrupt AZ. I hope you live in poverty and fear like the majority of US citizens are doing any more. You all need to take a long hike on a short bridge.

  2. Tessa
    August 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I love to hear the BS from the Dept of Health. Just got off phone with supervisor who tried to tell me that the Humble is only do what the law that was voted in required and when I brought up how he bends over for the dispensaries ie: if an area has only applicants that cannot provide the 150k in bank it will be waived. She at first denied it, and said it was not true. When I said of course it is, its in print and out of Mr Humbles mouth. She then just back peddled like any good sheep of this government and I told her she should know all of the facts in her position. She then admitted that what I said was knowledge and then said good bye. Funny how no one wants to talk about the issues. So all of anyone actually reads this… DO NOT RENEW YOUR CARDS NEXT YEAR IF DISPENSARIES ARE CORRUPTING OUR FREEDOM BY STATE SPONSORED DRUG CARTELS. BANKRUPT THE DISPENSARIES AND COST THE STATE OVER A MILLION IN FEES AND BILLIONS IN LEGAL AND LAWSUIT FEES. IF YOU CAN’T COMMIT TO THAT YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE FREE.

  3. Cat
    August 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    So they will rob you of your money then bust you. Kind of like dealing with the mob extort money then beat you a$$ and take what you have anyway????

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