Collectives as Casualties?

Courts are looking at the legality of cannabis clubs, but are they delaying the inevitable?

God bless medical marijuana clubs and the people who run them, but a Michigan Supreme Court ruling last week might be the death knell for cannabis collectives everywhere.


The highest court in the mitten state decided on Feb. 8 that it's illegal for the shops to exist, that the club owners are astray of the law when they facilitate transfers between patients and/or caregivers. The state of Michigan started the lofty legal spat when it sued Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor of Mount Pleasant (it's in the hand part, just west of the bottom end of the thumb), claiming the Compassionate Apothecary club was illegal.

Patients and caregivers rent lockers at the club, where they store cannabis to trade for money—i.e. sell—or donate to patients or to the club. The club then trades cannabis for money—i.e. sells it—to other patients. The apothecary also charges a 20 percent tithe of medication stored at the site, which is then traded for money—i.e. sold—to patients. The club itself never owned any cannabis or actually sold any. It was all patient-to-patient transfers between McQueen, Taylor and others.

That's illegal, the state claimed. McQueen and Taylor respectfully disagreed, so they went and got themselves a lawyer. They won.

Then the Wolverine State's lawyers tore into them again in the Court of Appeals, where the ruling went for the wolverines. The club is a nuisance, and it's illegal, the court ruled. So the Compassionate Apothecary lawyers appealed that ruling to the highest court in the Great Lakes State. In October they talked till they were blue in the face, and last week they lost that case. End of the line, cannabis clubs in Michigan. The state is now armed and willing to take you out.


The case might have relevance in Arizona, because we have dozens of collectives—mostly in the Phoenix metro area—that are waiting for a similar ax to fall. More than a year ago, in a case against several Phoenix clubs and individuals, including a bunch of John and Jane Does and mystery companies (literally), the state asked the Superior Court to rule on the legality of collectives here. Is it legal for them to operate or hold themselves out as though they are able to "lawfully participate in the possessions, production, transportation, sale, or transfer of marijuana pursuant to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act?" Attorney Generalissimo Tom Horne asked.

The case promptly went nowhere. Mr. and Mrs. Doe are still waiting to see what the court here says about the issue.

The similarities with the Michigan case are numerous. The clubs here are facilitating transfers between patients and other patients, just like the ones in Michigan. There is money changing hands, just like in the Michigan case. And the Superior Court judge appears to be on the side of the clubs, at least on first blush. Soon after the case was filed in 2011, the judge ruled the collectives can stay open until the case settles out.

Go, judge. Now keep going. Go ahead and rule the clubs legal, so we can get on with the appeals from Horne and Gov. Jan. Then we can wait another year for the Court of Appeals ruling and another year after that for the Supreme Court of Republicans to rule.

In my eyes, whose vantage point is 100 miles from Phoenix and more than 1,000 miles from the bottom row of knuckles in the Michigan mitten, it's almost irrelevant what our Supreme Courts say. It's all about the feds, IMO.

Sometime in the near future, if you think 10 years is the near future, I suspect we will be dribbling cannabis oil on our spinach salad and joking about that time back in the day when you couldn't just get your herbal remedy from the herbalist, so to speak. My guess is they will still call themselves dispensaries or apothecaries, but the cannabis clubs and shops, and specialists like McQueen and Taylor and John and Jane Doe, will be plying their trade under the protection of federal law. Until then, we'll just have to wait.

Oh whale.

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