Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne Monday filed a civil action against four Valley cannabis clubs in an attempt to stop them from providing patients access to marijuana under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The pot clubs have cropped up to fill the void of dispensaries, which can’t yet operate in Arizona pending a judge’s ruling.
Although dispensaries are permitted under the voter-approved law, they are not able to open because state officials have put that portion of the law on hold while Gov. Jan Brewer's federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment on the legality of the dispensary language is sorted out. Lawyers for the US government last week filed a motion to have that suit dismissed.
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.
The clubs operate by charging qualified patients a token membership fee, which then allows patients to make donations and obtain marijuana that is "gifted" by other members of the club.
“(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.
"I want the courts to weigh in and make a decision," said Al Sobol of the 2811 Club, one of the businesses named in the lawsuit. But Horne's statement that his club was guilty of "deception" made him bristle. "What's deceptive is when the state gives you a card, charges you $150 for it, then makes it so you have no way of using it."
“I see Mr. Horne saying there is nothing in the law that allows us to do this,” Sobol said. “I have to tell him there is nothing that says we can’t. Let him show us something.”
If a judge agrees with Horne and declares the clubs illegal, Horne says his office would likely set a deadline for the clubs' staff members to close down or face arrest.