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Medical Marijuana Is Under Attack In Arizona Again -- But This Time, Voters And Patients Hold The High Ground


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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.


medical-marijuana-is-under-attack-in-arizona-again-but-this-time-voters-and-patients-hold-the-high-ground.6916543.40.jpg Jamie PeacheyGarry Ferguson vowed to continue helping patients obtain medical marijuana after his Tempe "business" was raided by Gilbert police on June 16.medical-marijuana-is-under-attack-in-arizona-again-but-this-time-voters-and-patients-hold-the-high-ground.6916544.40.jpg Jamie PeacheyCompassion clubs offer edibles to patients who prefer not to smoke.

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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.






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Pot Clubs Are Under Scrutiny

Jul 222011var addthis_product = 'wpp-256';var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true};[/url]By Teri Walker–


With medical marijuana dispensaries on hold until lawmakers can decide if they’re in violation of federal law, pot clubs have been popping up around Arizona, bringing together card-carrying medical marijuana patients to share private supplies of marijuana. Now, these clubs are coming under legal scrutiny.


Late last week, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) asked the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to review the legality of so-called “cannabis clubs.”


“The information we have regarding these clubs suggests they are distributing marijuana to customers in a way that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), and the persons involved could be conducting illegal marijuana transactions,” said ADHS Director Will Humble.


In November, Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, legalizing marijuana use for individuals with specific debilitating conditions. Since that time, nearly 5,700 Arizonans have become licensed medical marijuana cardholders.


As part of the new law, one marijuana dispensary would be allowed in each of Arizona’s 126 community health analysis areas, which are areas defined by ADHS to track public health statistics. A licensed medical marijuana patient could possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana obtained from a dispensary every 14 days.


If a person doesn’t live within 25 miles of a dispensary, Prop. 203 allows them to cultivate up to 12 plants for their personal use and to share with other cardholders. It is this caveat in the law that pot club organizers are pointing to as justification for their efforts.


Just before ADHS was set to begin issuing permits for dispensaries, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke sent a letter threatening federal action against implementation of Arizona’s new law. He said anyone caught growing, distributing or possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is in violation of federal law, regardless of state laws that purport to permit such activities. Burke warned pot growers and sellers could be prosecuted under federal drug-trafficking laws.


On May 24, Governor Jan Brewer asked Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to file a lawsuit in response to Burke’s letter, asking a federal judge to determine the legality of Arizona’s new law.


Since dispensaries are not being allowed to open in the state pending the outcome of the lawsuit, some pot cardholders have decided to take matters into their own hands, contending the cannabis clubs can fill the void.


Typical club set ups include a host who requires an entry fee of varying amounts–say $50 to $75 for each visit. During the visit, members are given a “free sample” of pot. The clubs contend that as long as they’re not charging for the marijuana, they are not in violation of the law.


It is the legality of the manner of this “free” dispensing of pot that ADHS officials question. While the law states that patients and caregivers can share marijuana with other patients “if nothing of value is transferred in return,” those questioning the legality of pot clubs assert the pot samples are items of value transferred to the patient in return for an entry fee each visit; essentially, the entry fee pays for the drug.


At least seven pot clubs are openly advertising their programs around the state, but because the clubs are not regulated through zoning, sales tax or other licensing methods, it’s impossible to know exactly how many are in existence.


The investigation into the legality of the medical marijuana clubs is now in the hands of the Arizona Attorney General’s office. Results from this investigation and the federal judge’s assessment of the legality of Prop. 203 are pending.


In the meantime, Allan Sobol, the marketing agent who developed the business model for cannabis clubs, the 2811 Club, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment with Maricopa County Superior Court Monday, asking the court to review and establish the validity of the 2811 Club with respect to the AMMA.







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