Now she's really gone and done it.
By "she," I mean Arizona's fine and esteemed Gov. Jan Brewer, and by "it," I mean launched the state toward full implementation of the voter-passed Medical Marijuana Act. Now that two judges—one federal, one Superior Court—have scolded Gov. Jan into doing what we told her to do more than a year ago, she has decided to start taking applications from hopeful MMJ dispensary operators.
That might seem like a good thing to most people on the pot side of the legal fence, but as I often try to do, I will help you fully consider some of the possibilities.
It has always been interesting to me that Gov. Jan didn't block the entire Arizona Medical Marijuana Act—she blocked part of it. She could have just as easily and brazenly ordered the Department of Health Services to put the entire law on hold, citing the risk of federal prosecution of her beloved constituents. But she only blocked dispensaries. Why? Let's speculate.
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Gov. Jan is actually smart, maybe even very smart, and that Attorney General Tom Horne is likewise smart. I've voiced this suspicion before. Let's also assume that they don't want federal agents gettin' all up in their shit all the time, waving guns around and stealing all of Joe Arpaio's thunder with flashy, carpet-bagger federal cop raids and operations and such.
A few months ago, after a question from a U.S. representative from Colorado, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said his agency won't make prosecution of MMJ facility operators a high priority in states with highly regulated MMJ systems. Two of Arizona's MMJ neighbors—Colorado and California—have been in the news in recent months because of federal threats. Both have lots of rules concerning who can open MMJ dispensaries and how to operate them. But neither state has the kind of restriction Arizona does on the number of dispensaries.
In Colorado, where there are roughly 5 million people, there were more than 700 dispensaries last fall, according to a count by The Denver Post. Denver is a circus of MMJ sale and distribution. So is Los Angeles, with about 10 million people and more than 500 dispensaries, despite a supposed crackdown by the city, which hopes to limit the number to fewer than 100.
In Arizona, where we have about 6.5 million people, the law will allow just 125 dispensaries. That limit will surely help us avoid raids.
But how many dispensaries would the feds raid if we didn't have any? Zero. It's possible that Gov. Jan was on to something, even if she stumbled onto it in the dark on her way to slam shut the MMJ barn door. Maybe she was protecting the MMJ community of the great state of Arizona, whether she originally intended to or not. Federal raids hurt people, and I choose to believe Jan Brewer and Tom Horne are actual human beings, possibly even smart ones, and that they do care whether people get arrested.
So maybe they were doing the right thing, even if their original intent was to get all up in my shit and start hacking and slashing away at agreements—written agreements—between my government and me.
In the end, I remain skeptical of the overall value of MMJ dispensaries and urge extreme caution. Get out your maps, dispensary-planners, and make sure you aren't selling and/or distributing or causing to be sold or distributed any marijuana or marijuana-infused substances in a way that will piss off the U.S. Department of Justice—or Gov. Jan, for that matter.
Be intimately familiar with the law. Look it up. Read it carefully. Follow it to the letter, where possible. Call people like Thomas Dean, Arizona's experienced marijuana attorney (his words). He has represented and advised many of the people at the forefront of Arizona's MMJ fight.
And for God's sake, don't sell MMJ near any schools.