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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local August 28, 2014


8/1/2012 12:01:00 AM
County attorneys urge halt to dispensaries as lottery looms
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier, fileAll but two of Arizona’s 15 county attorneys signed onto Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk’s letter asking Gov. Jan Brewer to halt the opening of marijuana dispensaries.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier, file
All but two of Arizona’s 15 county attorneys signed onto Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk’s letter asking Gov. Jan Brewer to halt the opening of marijuana dispensaries.
Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

With a lottery for the state's first medical marijuana dispensaries looming just a week away, most of the county attorneys in Arizona have signed onto Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk's letter asking the governor to put a halt to dispensaries as well as user cards.

"We believe it is bad public policy for one arm of the government to facilitate marijuana cultivation and use while another arm of the government is moving to close it down," Polk's July 24 letter to Gov. Jan Brewer said. A dozen other county attorneys signed on to the letter on short notice, she said.

Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher is drafting a similar letter to the governor, his spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said, and most of Arizona's sheriffs already have signed off on it. Mascher is head of Arizona Sheriff's Association.

Gov. Jan Brewer responded to Polk on July 26 that she is moving forward with the Aug. 7 lottery to choose dispensaries.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has made it clear that it considers dispensaries illegal, said Polk and law enforcement consultant Anthony Coulson of Tucson, who retired in 2010 from his position as assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's Tucson District Office.

"I have been told that the newly appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, John Leonardo, fully intends to prevent any dispensaries from operating in Arizona by seizing each and every one as it opens and commits violations of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act)," Polk wrote to the governor.

Polk said she got that information from Coulson, who said he had talked to Leonardo. While he doesn't know exactly what Leonardo will do, he said he knows Department of Justice policy.

"The Department of Justice position has been not to let these dispensaries operate," Coulson said. "Landlords will be at risk of having properties seized."

He anticipates that federal officials will notify property owners that the dispensaries are illegal before raiding them.

Gov. Brewer responded to Polk's letter that "the federal government's position remains unclear" after her efforts to get the U.S. Attorney's Office to clarify its position were unsuccessful.

While she doesn't support the legalization of medical marijuana, the voters made it law in 2010, Brewer wrote.

"As such, I am duty-bound to implement the AMMA (Arizona Medical Marijuana Act), and my agency will do so unless and until I am instructed otherwise by the courts or notified that state employees face imminent risk of prosecution due to their duties in administering this law," Brewer wrote.

Bill Solomon, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona, would not respond directly to questions but issued a statement saying Polk's representation of the U.S. Attorney's position is inaccurate. The office's position has not changed since former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Ann Scheel wrote a letter to the governor about it, Solomon said.

"This USAO will continue to vigorously enforce the Controlled Substances Act against individuals and entities that operate and facilitate large marijuana production facilities and marijuana production facilities involved in the cultivation, sale and distribution of marijuana, even if purportedly for medical purposes," Scheel's February letter stated.

U.S. Attorneys in other states have issued similar letters saying state laws don't make large-scale marijuana growing and selling illegal, although they generally won't go after medical marijuana cardholders.

Scheel's letter also said state employees would not be immune from liability. Coulson said he wouldn't be surprised to see people whose property is seized by federal officials file federal lawsuits against state officials who license dispensaries.

Other states see raids

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have legalized medical marijuana, and the federal government has raided some dispensaries in California and Washington.

The governors of Washington and Rhode Island have petitioned the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II instead of a Schedule I drug, so it can have medical uses under federal law.

Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington vetoed a bill to clarify dispensary rules last year after the Justice Department said state employees would not be immune from liability. And Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island wouldn't proceed with authorizing dispensaries last year because federal officials warned him that they could prosecute dispensaries.

"What we have out here is chaos," Gregoire told The New York Times in a November article.

Voters in Oregon, Colorado and Washington will face ballot measures this fall to legalize marijuana completely.

Arizona voters narrowly approved medical marijuana in November 2010, and individuals were able to start getting user and grower cards in April 2011. While the state has delayed approval of dispensaries during its effort to get clarification of the federal position on the law, cardholders have been able to grow their own marijuana.

Fifty-four businesses and individuals have applied for the eight medical marijuana dispensary licenses that will be issued in Yavapai County. Statewide, 484 companies and people applied for 126 dispensary licenses. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) plans to randomly pick the dispensaries that get licenses during an Aug. 7 drawing.

At some point, state-approved dispensaries will need municipal or county approval to open, such as a certificate of occupancy.

"My advice would be for county employees not to have anything to do with this program," Polk said.

Related Stories:
• Guest Column: Medical marijuana program facts tell real story

Related Links:
• Sheila Polk's letter to Governor Brewer (PDF document)
• Governor Brewer's response to Sheila Polk (PDF document)
• U.S. Attorneys Office response to Governor Brewer (PDF document)


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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Mr Bojangels

Medical marijuana will be like SB1070 when its done.
Dissected of all its guts, leaving nothing but the stem. LOL


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: tell it like it is

the citizens of arizona voted in accordance with the constitution of the united states and passed into law legalizing marijauna. and now shiela polk and others are trying to changes this conctitutional right. sounds to me that we need another tea party dump these polititions and elect all new people into office. this i believe is the second time the citizens have spoken by voting our constutional right.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: We're Doomed

Sheila, it is time to start considering other career options. Given your numerous failings of late and now your desire to undo the will of the people it is apparent that your are unfit, unqualified and unable to perform the tasks of your office. Please clear out your desk and vacate the premisis.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: to Tom Von Deck

At $400 per ounce from a dispensary it would seem cost effective to drive to California and pick up your medical Marijuana tax free. They are giving cards away in boxes of cereal. I don't know what it sells for, but know you can get it everywhere. They will bring it to you. Arizona will shoot themselves in the foot if there is any way possible. We look like the Keystone cops to the rest of the Nation.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: r m

To: Hooty Hoo and the rest of the whiny nuts.
Hooty, can you give us a reference to your comment "as the federal atty has said time and again they will not prosecute an individual who has a card for using pot", or is that as usual your own dream?
Me I'll take the word over 13 attorney's who have studied the law, passed the bar and have been successful in their endeavors over the likes of you nuts any day. Not a one of you has a clue what's going on here.You spit and moan about government wasting tax payer dollars and when she does try to eliminate useless costs you brain surgeons just don't get it. Fed law trumps state law, get over it.
What is it about stupid you don't get. You want to legalize it, talk to your legislators, I'm sure they'll get you on the road to blissful living. But then their all Republican, probably not much help there.


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

By the way, I heard a rumor that people will be paying these dispensaries $400 per ounce. Is this true? If so, people will continue to either grow it or buy it on the streets. Under that model, the dispensaries would be useless.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

I smell a divide and conquer scheme brewing. Rent out a building, get your assets "forfeited". Sign a license and get sued by the licensee. Brilliant. By the way, can anyone tell me whether she's lying about the US Attorney's position or clarify further?

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em.

Dispensaries? We don't need no steenking dispensaries! We can grow it in the closet, grow it in the living room, grow it in the bathtub. And there's nothing any law enforcement person can do about it either. And the think about that is even if one fails to renew their pot card every year it still grows. Yeah baby!

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: J rOGERS

NO HUMANITY---Since Sheila may be the leader of the pack you all do lack some humanity. What humanity do they need?? Many people that are terminal in health lose a lot of weight by not having an appetite. As such my dad. He lost a lot of weight and given less then a year to live. And that was that. But people like Polk-- he was denied the opportunity to see if marijuana may have helped him in his last days. So Polk has decided to protect him from himself. She felt it was better for him to die that way. That is why you lack humanity.
I used to think that the law should be adjusted, but now I do not. It should be legalized.


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: rob PRESCOTT

If we the people voted, it was passed into law and government can step in and do whatever they want then I would say we are living in a dictatorship. this needs to stop now, or is it already to late?

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: jack straw

it seems as though az. lawmakers & politicians like to pick & choose federal laws which serve their personal interest best.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

Look at this quote from the article: (caps mine)
"County Attorney Sheila Polk's letter asking the governor to put a halt to dispensaries AS WELL AS USER CARDS."

That's insane, and clearly against the law (stopping the issue of user cards verified by doctors review of medical records). That will never happen either, as the federal atty has said time and again they will not prosecute an individual who has a card for using pot. So here is what will happen if no distensaries open: THEY'LL GROW THEIR OWN. And legally. Sales of growing equipment will go nuts, there will be coop exchanges (already are). So what's the point Sheila? Heck, in a few months it will possibly be legal to buy it a Circle K in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon. Won't that be a bee in Sheila's bonnet!


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: works for me

If the dispensaries don't open or cannot remain open, patients and their caregivers will be able to continue growing clean medicine cheaply and quietyly in their own homes. This is a good thing. Polk's intentions are predicated on faulty logic, misinformation and fear-mongering, and yet I do hope she successfully stands in the way of state regulated dispensaries.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Lyle

This goes to show the voters how important their votes are. We vote in a law BUT if the Government doesn't like our vote it is not allowed to become law, so why vote. When we vote for a President, or anyone else running for office, we should have a button that says NONE OF THE ABOVE ! Then just maybe we would have someone who listens to the voters.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: all pro

it deserves attention that , so far today , ALL the posted comments are againest ms. polk. i've been a courier reader for many , many years , i always read the letters to the editor and i'm pretty sure this is the first article i've seen where all the comments lean the same way. hmmmmm.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: LET'S VOTE THEM OUT!!

The people that voted in the medical canabis law obviously is the majority especially because a lot of people that are for it now didnt even vote before. So I say VOTE THESE PEOPLE OUT that think the american citizens vote counts for nothing against there own agandas. I guess Shelia Polk is upset she doesnt have the little non violent stoners to bust now and are forcing Law Enforcement to go after real criminals.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Curios Mind

Why is the sheriff enforcing federal
Law? The Supreme Court said that 1070 was enforcing federal law and that was illegal.


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Loitering Tax Dollars

I still do not understand how a state law can override federal law. The only time this can be legal is when the state makes the federal law more strict not less in this case. Look at what is happening in California. Some cities are closing down the "legal weed" shops. This means that state spent a lot of money only to take a few steps back in some cities.

The state has most likely dumped a lot of tax dollars in to setting up the process to get the cards, printing the cards, and mailing them out. They are also going to need to spend a lot of money to get the process established to allow people to sell "legal weed" follow up and inspect the properties and continious inspections (much like a county health department).

Will the state have a process in place to ensure that only marijuana is being sold? Will there be a way to check to ensure the marijuana is not "laced" with something else? It just seems silly that all this is being done so that people can smoke weed in their house.

I know there will be people pointing out that it helps people with pain. It helps ease cancer patients. It has beneficial properties to it. What will end up happening is the dopers will find a way to have a "chronic" (no pun intended) issue and get a card so they can smoke legally.

I dont see what the big deal is about weed.


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: jJ.C. Thomson

Seems like our County Attorney can't get her act together on serious criminal prosecutions (DeMocker, a decade old sexual abuse of children, etc) so she has to get her name and picture in the paper for something. What a waste of our tax dollars.

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: John Doe

What an enlightened and progressive problem solving position the County Attorney has adopted! She is after all serving at the behest of the same citizenry that enfranchised the AMMA! Or is she?

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Van Krunk

First, even smelling pot gives me a headache! But if its legal, actually relieves pain and has already been voted in, why is our DA sticking her nose in?

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: concerned citizen

The purpose of the voteing system is allowing us as American to allow us to do things in our country that the Amercian people want to do.It cant only work when we want it to work.Shelia Polk should know this as our Judical process doesnt always work the way her outcome wants it to be.This is why we are are a free country .She is saying the voters have no rights on the Medical Issues and what became law should not take place.Maybe we will vote her out on her next election.


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Mother Knows Best

One look at those eyes, and if I was a member of LE, I'd demand a field sobriety test. It's my understanding that being able to understand and perform a simple counting exercise is a prerequisite to passing such a test.
Wonder how our founding fathers would feel about election results that are simply ignored or elections with only ONE candidate?


Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: bob jones

Let the sick get the help they need. Why is polk so against this? Do people not know that this is medicine, and you don't have to smoke it. The stores would allow items that are not smoked and this is what really helps. The city of prescott already has a sales tax approved for the stores once opened. From the looks around here , we sure could use some jobs and tax money. Please write Polk and tell her what you really feel. This is not right for them to go against the will of the people for a 3rd time. Who is getting paid off and why?

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Article comment by: Really Now

The US Attorneys Office stance has never changed and neither has the Federal Governments warnings of the dispensaries existence may be illegal and subject to severe action. Where and why does Polk get headlining grabbing attention with such nonsense about her claims and followers, other district attorneys follow suit ! Of course they do and their real plead is that it may cause more case loads for their offices. I personally don't condone the whole marijuana issue but feel that Arizona could run this right and benefit from the hundreds of millions in revenue, and oh by the way, The Feds also enjoy the rewards.


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