Marijuana club's lawyer accuses governor, AG of playing politics - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Marijuana club's lawyer accuses governor, AG of playing politics

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Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2011 12:30 pm

The lawyer for one of the state’s medical marijuana clubs accused the governor and state attorney general on Friday of conspiring to undermine the voter-approved initiative making the drug legal for some ill people.

“We believe that there’s a clear and blatant pattern that has transpired over the last few months,’’ said Thomas Dean. He said that directly includes both Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne.

“There’s plenty of evidence that was done in a way that was conspiratorial, fraudulent,’’ Dean told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink.

In a bid to prove his point, Dean told the judge he wants to question both officials under oath.

But Assistant Attorney General Lori Davis told the judge that’s not going to happen — at least not in the way Dean envisions.

Davis said she’s willing to provide stipulations verifying the accuracy of public statements both have made about the issue.

“But if they’re wanting to get into political leanings and whether they oppose it or support it, I don’t think that’s appropriate for this,’’ she told the judge. Davis said the only issue before the court is whether the clubs can legally operate, making the views of the two elected officials irrelevant.

And she called Dean’s request “a political, media move.’’

Dean, however, argued that what he hopes to discover will show that the state officials trying to shut down his client’s club and several others have acted improperly.

That would allow the clubs to argue the pair have “unclean hands,’’ a legal concept that can be used to ask a court to declare that the state is not legally entitled to the relief it seeks, meaning shutting down the clubs.

Hanging in the balance is whether the marijuana clubs that have sprung up around the state during the last year can keep their doors open.

Proposition 203 spells out that those who have a doctor’s certification they have certain medical conditions can obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. The law envisioned a network of dispensaries where those with medical marijuana cards could purchase the drug.

But Brewer, after consulting with Horne, blocked the state health department from even taking applications for the dispensaries.

That led to formation of the clubs where people can go to get free marijuana from those who have donated their excess or signed over their right to grow their own.

The state responded with a lawsuit seeking to shutter the clubs.

Davis said Friday that the clubs essentially are selling marijuana, something that remains illegal for anyone who is not a dispensary. She said the monetary exchange occurs at the door, as the only way for someone to get in the club is to pay a membership fee or a one-time admission.

Dean and attorneys for other clubs who the state wants to shutter say they fit within the exception allowing the person-to-person transfer if no money changes hands for the drug.

Fink, who will have to decide who is right and whether the clubs can remain open, seemed unconvinced that the views of the two elected officials is relevant to the question.

“For sake of argument, assuming that the governor and the attorney general’s office are so against this law that they’re willing to do whatever it is you think they’re doing, that’s not going to make what’s happening at the clubs either legal or illegal,’’ the judge told Dean. And he brushed aside the attorney’s claims that politics has entered into the issue.

“There are clearly political issues in almost everything we deal with,’’ Fink said.

“But the fact of the matter is, the politics part of it isn’t what I have to focus on,’’ the judge continued. “It’s the law: What did the voters pass and what is happening in the clubs, and is that consistent or inconsistent with what the voters have allowed?’’

Both Brewer and Horne brushed aside any contention they are conspiring to thwart the will of the voters.

“That’s probably one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard of,’’ the governor said. She said her administration was in the process of administering the terms of Proposition 203 but decided not to issue dispensary permits after there were indications the federal government might prosecute state employees for facilitating the purchase of marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.

Horne poked fun at the accusation, saying those who see a conspiracy here are the same people “who see black helicopters from Mars.’’

A trial is not likely to occur before next year.

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