Out With a Whimper

Maricopa County Attorney loses legal battle with tail between his legs

Earlier this month, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state's medical marijuana industry by quashing a long-standing legal assault by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

Montgomery constantly rails against imaginary dangers of marijuana, likely borne from knowing little to nothing about the plant, and based on flawed data. He was a major player in the fight against Proposition 205 along with Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

Just to give you a taste of Montgomery's perplexing perspective, he once argued in a debate with a medical marijuana advocate and lawyer that marijuana should be illegal because "that's what God wants."

While I'm not one to knock Bill for his faith, one has to wonder whether that's the right approach to denying others life-changing medication. Would Bill tell a 7-year-old girl whose seizures went from 80 to two a day that she just has to live with it because that's the way God made her?

Well, during that same debate, he lambasted a veteran who used medical marijuana, calling him "the enemy," so maybe.

Montgomery's waged war over a single medical marijuana shop in Sun City (in unincorporated Maricopa County) called White Mountain. In 2012, he urged the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to withhold zoning approval for the shop on the grounds that doing so would conflict with federal law.

In December 2012, Maricopa Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon called the campaign a "transparent attempt" to shut down Arizona's medical marijuana law. Montgomery didn't back down. He appealed the decision and was again rejected in December 2016. The vote was 3-0 in favor of the standing ruling.

Not discouraged, Montgomery appealed once again to the Arizona Supreme Court. This time, they didn't even bother to hear the case, rejecting the appeal.

White Mountain found saving grace in the American Civil Liberties Union. Without their help, one of their attorneys said the case could have wrestled up to $400,000 out of their (figurative) bank account.

Montgomery's argument that the law runs afoul of congressional will is shaky at best. That would be the same Congress that repeatedly votes in protections for the medical marijuana industry while maintaining the plant as a Schedule I drug. Federal lawmakers are sending mixed signals at best.

Earlier this week, Montgomery and his friends at the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy held an anti-marijuana conference in conjunction with MATFORCE, another marijuana opposition machine.

The event advertised an exploration of the adverse effects of marijuana on various communities and included speakers such as Kevin Sabet, CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and Dr. Ed Gogek, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction treatment and once wrote an op-ed for the New York Times.

While I'm sure the speakers made good points against legalization, touching on all the usual points about increased crime rates, teen use and addiction (none of which seems to have much of a consensus), no doubt they were handing out blinders at the door.

What the propaganda pushers don't yet realize is that the debate is no longer whether marijuana should be legalized, but how it should be regulated. Not a single marijuana advocate will tell you that they want kids to get addicted and more fatal accidents.

Gogek's article for the Times makes several of these misguided accusations. For one, he claims medical marijuana patients are "con artists," faking pain to smoke legally. To which I say, well no shit. People want to be able to enjoy marijuana safely, responsibly and legally, so of course there will be a fair amount of cardholders who simply want to indulge on the up-and-up.

The point is that people are gaming the system because the system is flawed. Anyone for real responsible drug policy would advocate for de-scheduling marijuana and spreading information instead of scare tactics.

We should focus on fusing marijuana into society in a way that encourages responsible use, just like alcohol, tobacco, fast food and the rest of our vices that bring us a tiny bit closer to death, but make the ride just that much more enjoyable.