Arizona AG asks judge to shut down ‘cannabis clubs’

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Monday asked a judge shut down three Phoenix-area medical-marijuana clubs that he claims illegally charge fees to provide patients with pot. Horne said in a news release that the clubs “falsely claim to be operating lawfully under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.” On behalf of state health Director Will Humble, Horne asked a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to decide the legality of the clubs.

The pot clubs have cropped up to fill the void of dispensaries, which can’t yet operate in Arizona pending a judge’s ruling on Proposition 203. Horne and Gov. Jan Brewer filed a lawsuit in late May, asking a federal judge to determine whether compliance with Prop. 203 would leave state employees vulnerable to prosecution for violating federal drug statutes. Last week, Deputy U.S. Attorney Scott Risner asked a federal judge to throw out that case, arguing it asks for a hypothetical opinion because no state employees currently face prosecution.

Under voter-approved Prop. 203, patients can legally grow marijuana and give it to other patients as long as there are no dispensaries nearby and nothing of value is exchanged. But Horne argues the law does not protect pot clubs and cooperatives, specifically those that charge fees. “(If) it was just a place for the patients to go and transfer marijuana for no fee, I suppose it wouldn’t be a problem,” Horne said. In his request, Horne focused on three clubs that he said received the “most publicity:” the 2811 Club and the Arizona Compassion Club in Phoenix and Yoki A M in Mesa. The suit also names Michael Miller, who is affiliated with the Arizona Compassion Club.

The complaint does not address other medical-marijuana clubs in the Valley. Horne said a judge’s ruling also would apply to similar clubs not named in the suit. If a judge decided the clubs were illegal, Horne said, they would have a “reasonable time period to shut down.” Al Sobol, founder of the 2811 Club, said the 2811 Club is not – as Horne said in a news release – acting as an unlicensed dispensary. He said his club is “just a venue” that allows patients to exchange medical marijuana in a “safe, dignified way.”

The 2811 Club charges members an initial application fee of $25 and a $75 entry fee each visit to attend classes and get a free sample. The club offers marijuana through the Arizona Compassion Club, a co-op of patients and legal caregivers. “We’ve done everything to try to be totally honest,” Sobol said. “We believe that this is completely compliant with state law.” Spokesman Nick Monte said the Arizona Compassion Club is acting within the limitations of the Medical Marijuana Act. He said if the clubs were illegal, officials would shut them down instead of asking for a declaratory judgment.

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