Recently, right before the momentous occasion of AZ’s first, and long overdue lottery for dispensaries, our County Attorney and the AZ Attorney General announced they were not interested in the will of the people and would instead fight the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AZMMA) no matter what the voters want. Putting aside the all-too-obvious irony and hypocrisy (e.g. the same people that put them in office voted for the AZMMA, Federal law only matters on MMJ not immigration, etc. etc.), and even ignoring the disingenuous nature of how they chose to proceed (they could have done this before millions of $ were raked in by the State), I think it is instructive for us to look deeper at their efforts, the desired effects and what they actually mean for patients and the MMJ community.
I can sum it up in one word: FEAR. When Mr. Montgomery held his press conference he said he would vigorously work towards the arrest and prosecution of anybody helping patients acquire their medicine. He even went so far as to say patients are NOT protected from arrest and prosecution! These words were intimidating, and completely without compassion for suffering patients, but most importantly there were not entirely true.
The simple fact is that unless a Court says AZ’s law is invalid, the AZMMA is the law of the land and it protects patients, caregivers, and dispensary owners from being arrested, prosecuted or harassed under color of State law. Further, the County Attorney does not enforce Federal laws. He may want a pre-emption ruling very badly, but unless he gets one (and the AZ District Federal court and two AZ Superior Courts have thus far have refused to give one) his hands as a Maricopa County Prosecutor are relatively tied.
So that leaves the weapon of Fear. The opposition wants to scare you into inaction. The threat of arrest prosecution and harassment by some of the most powerful men in the State keeps people (including myself) up at night, and rightfully so. However it is important that we keep this in context. Their Fear is intimidating, but for now they have very little to back it up. If they were actually intent on arresting and prosecuting people under AZ law why are they not doing so today? There are numerous caregivers who, despite the threats of these powerful officials, have willingly put themselves in the line of fire because they feel compelled (often morally obligated) to alleviate the unnecessary suffering of patients. While there have been a handful of arrests of these caregivers, I know of very few actual indictments and no convictions thus far. In fact a Court in Yuma County recently ordered the Sheriff to return a patient’s medicine after they had been wrongfully arrested (also rejecting preemption arguments by that County attorney)!
The truth is that the real weapons of arrest and prosecution are much more difficult and costly to deploy and their chances of a conviction right now are slim (keep in mind that a jury of your peers has to convict you under AZ law). If you are compassionately serving real patients within the bounds of AZ law, I seriously doubt this is a case to bring to a jury in front of the public’s scrutiny. Not only would this be more costly in physical and financial resources but it is potentially very politically costly as they may ultimately be seen by the public and the press as harassing those who are helping sick people when they could be fighting real crime.
Ryan Hurley Rose Law Group Fear Political Weapon
I of course can’t guarantee that some won’t be arrested and prosecuted, and there is always the possibility that a Court will consider AZ’s law pre-empted (although 3 of them thus far have declined to do so), but if we succumb only to the Fear then we haven’t really cost the opposition anything and at the very least we should not go down without a fight. More importantly we know that we come from a place of Love and Compassion rather than Fear and Intimidation, and in the long run of history, Love always wins.
Source: The Rose Law Group Blog