Blaming the Feds

Tom Horne makes an ominous move that could lead to a delay in the opening of dispensaries

On Aug. 6, Arizona Attorney Generalissimo Tom Horne hovered his foot yet again over the medical-marijuana brakes when he issued an opinion that part of our state MMJ law is pre-empted by federal law.

He didn't slam his foot down (yet), but he made it clear that he thinks the state's authorization of growing and dispensing marijuana is bad, very bad. It's OK to give people MMJ cards and even dispensary-operator certificates, Gen. Horne said, but you can't "authorize" people to violate federal law.

The opinion is ominous, because it might just give the Department of Health Services an opportunity to bring the dispensary program to a screeching halt. It offers another chance for Gov. Jan Brewer to block the program. I expect no less.

In the opinion, Gen. Horne gave DHS the green light to issue dispensary certificates, which happened the next day. Ninety-nine certificates were issued. Now we just wait and see if Health Service's Will Humble moves ahead with permission for dispensaries to open.

Something tells me there will be not be any dispensaries soon.

The generalissimo's opinion comes after a request from 13 county attorneys for guidance on how to protect municipal employees who are innocently quivering at the threat of federal arrest. These poor souls are forced into the craw of federal prosecution, because the state law makes them help folks get MMJ, the county attorneys said in an Aug. 3 letter.

"State, county and municipal employees are facilitating the violation of federal law each and every time they assist with each aspect of implementing the (Arizona Medical Marijuana Act). Recent federal enforcement actions make clear the federal government's commitment to disregard any alleged cover provided by state statutes and a simple change in policy would needlessly subject government employees to immediate prosecution," they wrote.

C'mon, guys. Haven't we been through this already? Let's talk for a minute about this supposed federal government commitment to ignoring the cover provided by MMJ statutes: That is bullshit, plain and simple. Clearly, there is a federal commitment to leaving us the fuck alone. There are hundreds (thousands?) of storefronts in more than a dozen states (including Arizona) where MMJ patients can get meds. In each of those states, there are thousands of state and municipal employees who helped the MMJ shops and dispensaries open.

How many raids have there been? A handful. So few, in fact, that it's big news when it happens. How many municipal employees have been arrested for helping them break federal laws? Zero. If the feds were committed to prosecuting MMJ purveyors, there would be hundreds of cases pending in court, and hundreds more pending in the committed minds of federal drug agents. It simply isn't happening.

Nonetheless, the county attorneys asked for Gen. Horne's opinion, and he opined. I would urge you (and the county attorneys) to consider the source.

I'm not a lawyer, but I do know the laws in this country are subject to all kinds of interpretation. We have a long, proud history of fucking each other with those interpretations over and over and over. We've been pooping opinions back and forth for centuries: States v. Feds, Whigs v. Tories, Republicans v. Democrats, Men v. Women, Us v. Them. And when it comes to believing or trusting any particular interpretation of the law, I don't make it a habit to listen much to lawyers who were banned for life by the Securities and Exchange Commission for shyster activities. True enough, the good general hasn't been caught doing anything like that since 1973. But Gen. Horne's lifetime trading ban kinda says the federal government will never trust the guy.

Neither will I.