The Law Says ...

A champion of medical marijuana fights what he considers harassment and uneven enforcement

Lawsuits are flying again in the Arizona medical-marijuana world—or at least requests for writs of mandamus and notices of claims are flying.

Three former MMJ club owners have put the state on notice that they want $18 million in compensation for an October raid that closed their 2811 Club near Bell Road and Interstate 17 in Phoenix. Allan Sobol, Shawn Britton and Susan Miller wonder—and so do I—why police targeted their club, which never sold marijuana, but offered patients a safe, convenient place to learn about MMJ and get meds after paying membership fees.

The notice calls the raid "selective enforcement" and claims damages of $18,092,000 for loss of business; physical damage to the club; equipment and money taken by police; and a loss of civil rights. It includes an offer to settle for $5 million.

No one was charged after the raid, and the partners decided not to reopen for fear of another costly raid.

Sobol estimates there are now more than 200 medical-marijuana clubs across the Phoenix metro area. There are a handful in Tucson. He thinks most are illegal and maintains the 2811 Club was not. The marketing-company owner tried to get help from police before he opened, to ensure that what they were doing was legal. He doubts the other clubs did the same.

"The 2811 Club is one of the very few business operations of its kind that has registered as a legitimate business operation with the Arizona Corporation Commission, and, in an effort toward complete transparency, extended a unconditional open-door policy of welcoming and inviting the defendants and law enforcement to visit and inspect the business operation at any time," the notice of claim says.

Sobol thinks the transparent 2811 Club was meticulously legal.

"Everyone else is under the table hiding. They picked on me, because I'm their most vocal critic. They closed that club to shut me up. Since that raid, they haven't raided another club anywhere," he said.

The defendants on the notice include the state; Maricopa County; the Phoenix Police Department; Gov. Jan Brewer; William Humble, director of the state Department of Health Services; state Attorney General Thomas Horne; Maricopa County Attorney William Montgomery; and Deputy County Attorney Jeffery A. Beaver.

They have 60 days to respond.

Along with the notice of claim, Sobol filed a request for a writ of mandamus asking a judge to order the attorney general and Phoenix Police Department to enforce the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. He wants the authorities to shut down illegal MMJ clubs, which are openly selling marijuana by weight. There are ads on Craigslist, price lists on the Internet, and even a farmers' market, yet police are doing nothing, Sobol said.

"The present state of the Arizona medical-marijuana market is fraught with black marketers which the Arizona voters never envisioned or approved. Yet for some unknown reason, the Phoenix Police Department and the Attorney General's Office (have) allowed these obvious and outrageous violations of our laws to prosper unabated," the writ says.

The filing then goes on to list several examples of what Sobol deems illegal businesses, including that cannabis farmers' market where plants, MMJ and paraphernalia were for sale—and folks were smoking in public (a no-no under the AMMA).

"It appears that the Phoenix police have either lost control of the illegal marijuana marketplace, or have elected to ignore their legal responsibilities of enforcement," the writ concludes. Sobol wants the court to order them to enforce the AMMA.

So there is a new shitstorm of legal paper swirling around us here in the Arizona MMJ community. What it all means and where it will lead us remain to be seen, but I have to say I agree with Al Sobol on almost all of what he says in his legal filings.

He has emerged as a champion of MMJ rights in Arizona, and I wish him luck.

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