For patrons of Arizona's cannabis clubs, exchanging medical marijuana is legal -- but not, according to a new lawsuit, if you pay for it.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Monday asked a judge to shut down three Phoenix-area medical-marijuana clubs, charging that they were violating the law by charging fees. The lawsuit reflects the confusion surrounding the legal status of marijuana in Arizona: in November voters passed a proposition allowing medical marijuana, but no licenses for dispensaries have been issued as a judge considers a lawsuit filed by Governor Jan Brewer.
Under Proposition 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 argued that the three cannabis clubs "falsely claim to be operating lawfully under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act" because they charge a fee.
"[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.
Al Sobol, founder of the 2811 Club, argued that his business is not an unlicensed dispensary despite the fact that it charges an application fee of $25 and a $75 entry fee each visit to attend classes and get a free sample. He told the Tucson Citizen that his club is "just a venue" that allows patients to exchange medical marijuana in a "safe, dignified way."
"We've done everything to try to be totally honest," Sobol said. "We believe that this is completely compliant with state law."
The murky legal terrain occupied by unofficial clubs like 2811 reflects a disconnect between federal drug laws and states statutes that legalize some aspect of marijuana. More Mexican-grown marijuana enters this Arizona than any other state, according to federal government data cited by The New York Times, and people carrying medical marijuana cards have been the targets of raids.
"In lieu of a regulated industry, we're now creating an environment in which patients are growing their own with limited oversight, and these private clubs of questionable legality are popping up," Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association told The Times.