Sunday, August 12, 2012

Montgomery, Horne simply hate this law

State Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery must think of Ryan Hurley as the boogeyman.

He's actually worse than that. He's a lawyer.

Which still puts him ahead of Horne and Montgomery, who are lawyers and politicians, as well as two men doing everything they can to keep the state from fully implementing the medical-marijuana law that - for a third time - was approved by voters.

Apparently the top law-enforcement officials in the state have solved Arizona's crime problem and now have time to frighten sick people and threaten those who want to help them.

Most recently, Horne issued a non-binding opinion saying that federal law supersedes Arizona's medical-marijuana law and that allowing marijuana dispensaries to move forward could get people arrested. Not by federal authorities, who have expressed no interest in prosecuting medical-marijuana cases, but by Montgomery, who publicly proclaimed that he is prepared to consider prosecuting cases the feds aren't interested in.

Hurley represents some of the folks who plan to open medical-marijuana dispensaries in Arizona.

He told me, "His (Montgomery's) press conference amounted to fear and intimidation rather than anything new. The county attorney enforces and prosecutes state law, not federal law. ... So this sort of notion that he's going to be out there arresting people under state law is just silly."

Silly, yes.

But also predictable.

The state's elected officials have been attacking the voter-approved law from the beginning. It began when Gov. Jan Brewer and Horne filed a federal lawsuit, which went nowhere.

Since then, there has been hand-wringing and foot-dragging and doom-saying until finally, last week, the state health department issued 97 dispensary-registration certificates. These were selected by a lottery from among 433 applicants. Each of those potential dispensary owners apparently was unimpressed by the dire predictions of arrest and financial ruin by Horne and Montgomery.

I asked Hurley if he was surprised by the vehemence with which the politicians are fighting implementation.

"It was a little surprising," he said. "Their stated intention from day one was to try to resolve this in a civil fashion in the courts, and that seems to have gone the other way. It's unfortunate because what they're going to end up doing is forcing cancer patients into the black market, into back alleys to pick up their medicine."

Montgomery and Horne want the issue back into the courts.

"If he (Montgomery) is successful in delaying or impeding the dispensary program, all he is going to be doing is allowing this unregulated gray market to pop up," Hurley said. "And patients aren't protected and growers aren't protected. The dispensaries offer a safe, legal, compliant way for people to get their medicine, and that is what people voted for."

Horne and Montgomery point to problems with medical marijuana in California and Colorado.

"Arizona is more like Colorado than California," Hurley said. "California has no specific state law that authorizes dispensaries. ... But unlike any state in the nation, we strictly limited the number of dispensaries we have. And the regulations people had to go through here to get a license were much steeper than other places. Our model, our law, is better than anyone else's so far and should be allowed to work the way it was designed."

He added, "Besides, even in California, where there is a lot of uncertainty, these notions that the sky is going to fall just don't hold up. You talk to LAPD, you talk to Denver PD, you look at the studies by the Rand Corporation, and there is absolutely no statistical increase in crime associated with medical marijuana. Period."

Trying to keep Arizona's medical-marijuana law from taking effect isn't about crime, however. It's about politicians who hate the idea of medical marijuana so much they are trying to override the will of voters. Or are they?

After all, the same voters who approved the marijuana initiative elected Brewer, Horne and Montgomery.

A fact that lends itself to a question I've heard from many out-of-state colleagues: "What are you people smoking?"

By E. J. Montini,, 602-444-8978

Source: The Arizona Republic

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