from Phoenix New Times
by Ray Stern |January 5, 2018

Stay robust, Arizona medical-marijuana sufferers.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and native authorities have little energy to cease you from consuming, possessing, and even rising hashish underneath state legislation.

The 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act comprises a type of “Dracula clause”: If freedom-hating prohibitionists attempt to kill it, it is going to come again to life and chew them.

Sessions on Thursday rescinded the Obama-era actions that gave rise to the fashionable, state-legal marijuana business, the so-called Cole and Ogden memos.

In idea, the brand new non-guidance to high federal prosecutors (the state U.S. attorneys) grants them extra leeway to pursue enforcement actions in opposition to hashish corporations which can be complying with their state legal guidelines. Medical-marijuana corporations could be immune from this enforcement — however just for one other month, if Congress fails to increase a key legislation banning funds from being spent on such enforcement.

As Phoenix New Times and different media shops reported Thursday, the anticipated shift in coverage has despatched a chill all through the multibillion-dollar business. Operators and buyers with the state’s 130 or so dispensaries should wait to see the way it all shakes out.

But for approved Arizona sufferers, the results of a draconian crackdown on the businesses is extra predictable, given the textual content of the state legislation.

If the state stops issuing medical-marijuana playing cards, Arizona sufferers — who now quantity about 160,000 — may nonetheless possess and devour hashish by acquiring a health care provider’s word. The state would not regulate this system and wouldn’t acquire its $150 price.

Selling hashish to sufferers could be a state crime, since solely dispensaries can legally try this underneath the 2010 legislation. But the state legislation says that sufferers can develop as much as 12 vegetation every if no dispensary is working inside 25 miles.

With no dispensaries and unrestrained cultivation by sufferers, the black marketplace for hashish could be greater than ever earlier than. Tens of hundreds of sufferers who want hashish would start to instantly search out a substitute for dispensaries, if these companies have been shut down. Clearly, they’d be quickly served by a military of immediately unemployed, extremely expert, and skilled growers and sellers.

The revolution of authorized hashish would march on.

The feds may attempt to cease the chaotic freedom, however they merely don’t have the assets to go after sufferers and small-time growers.

As former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio used to complain, the coverage on the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office for years has been to prosecute solely the (non-border-trafficking) hashish instances that contain greater than 500 kilos. Typically, the one time that federal authorities bust common people for minor possession instances, as New Times has present in court docket information, is when rangers catch somebody with hashish in federal parks.

Ryan Hurley, normal counsel for Copperstate Farms, one of many largest hashish growers within the state, stated that he’s involved about Sessions rescinding the Obama protections, however doesn’t imagine the Arizona medical program can be focused.

“Worst of all” for the prohibitionists, he stated, is the potential state of affairs of unregulated sufferers and home-growers that will come up if the federal authorities knocked out the dispensaries.

The variety of sufferers in an unregulated system would possibly method the estimated 600,000 individuals who devour hashish in Arizona, whether or not for medicinal causes or not, he predicted.

“Anyone could walk around with a note in their pocket” and luxuriate in safety from state prosecution for low-level possession and cultivation, Hurley stated.

Other states the place voters have legalized hashish, like Colorado and California, would additionally retain their fundamental protections for sufferers and leisure customers, he added.

“It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to put the genie back in the bottle,” he stated. “People would rise up.”

The hashish panorama is vastly totally different than it was simply 10 years in the past in Arizona, when everybody was topic to felony prosecution for possession of any quantity of hashish. Patients have state voters, Obama, and Congress to thank for the present protections.

Legal hashish will go down as one in every of Obama’s most enduring legacies since his administration modified the paradigm in 2009. That yr, in response to medical-marijuana legal guidelines in California, Colorado, and different states, deputy AG David Ogden despatched a memo to all of the U.S. Attorneys that successfully ended strict anti-cannabis enforcement by the feds.

“As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” the memo learn.

In November 2010, Arizona voters authorized Prop 203, the Medical Marijuana Act, by simply 4,341 votes. Because the Act was a poll proposition, it could actually’t be altered by the Arizona Legislature with out a three-fourths majority vote, and even then the change should additional the Act’s function.

The Marijuana Policy Project, which put the Act on the poll, predicted that anti-freedom lawmakers or bureaucrats would possibly attempt to intervene with the legislation’s implementation and added the Dracula clause. That part is now enshrined in Arizona Revised Statute 36-2818, which says that if the state Department of Health Services “is not accepting applications” for medical-marijuana playing cards, sufferers can merely jot down on a sheet of paper their ailment and different data now in official functions, get it notarized, and acquire a health care provider’s written certification.

The two paperwork collectively “shall be deemed a valid registry identification card,” the legislation states.

Deputy AG James Cole issued one other memo in 2013 that usually shielded states’ medical-marijuana packages and in addition paved the best way for the groundbreaking adult-use legal guidelines of Colorado and Washington in 2012.

Congress granted robust safety to medical-marijuana packages in 2014 by passing the Rohrabacher-Farr modification, which bans the feds from spending cash on enforcement operations in opposition to the packages. Now generally known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, the legislation was reapproved and in the end upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s presently set to run out on January 19.

Arizona’s legislation additionally enjoys safety from the state court docket system, with a number of rulings that deny the legislation is in battle with federal legislation, reasoning that the state can select by itself whether or not or to not implement hashish prohibition.

Federal authorities wouldn’t must ship jackboots into the dispensaries to close down the business. A couple of strongly worded letters threatening seizure of belongings and property would do the trick. But U.S. Attorneys have some discretion and will resolve to not associate with any deliberate crackdown by Sessions. On Thursday, Acting Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, an Obama appointee, introduced that he wouldn’t change his present method to hashish enforcement — which incorporates permitting Colorado shops to promote hashish to anybody 21 or older. However, Trump may exchange Troyer.

The Trump administration nonetheless hasn’t assigned Arizona a everlasting U.S. Attorney since John Leonardo, additionally an Obama appointee, resigned after Trump’s election. That means it’s unknown whether or not Arizona’s new federal prosecutor — whoever it is going to be — will attempt to shut down the state dispensary program.

Asked for remark about Sessions’ transfer, the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, headed up by appearing Arizona U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Strange, launched the next, considerably cryptic, assertion: “Our office is committed to the enforcement of federal law and does not have anything to add to the Attorney General’s announcement at this time.”

If the brand new Arizona federal prosecutor chooses to take down the dispensary business, it will trigger monetary ache for the state as hundreds of individuals misplaced their jobs, and as an business price a whole bunch of tens of millions of {dollars} in financial exercise went up in smoke. Investors and dispensary operators could be out of luck.

Arizona’s 160,000 sufferers would discover it more durable to purchase hashish merchandise, particularly the merchandise they’ve come to make use of usually, whether or not that be a particular flower pressure, edible, or focus. The feds would possibly even attempt to prosecute just a few common sufferers or growers for instance, though such actions could be very restricted as a consequence of federal priorities.

For essentially the most half, sufferers’ fundamental proper to own as much as 2.5 ounces of hashish wouldn’t be infringed. They’d simply have to seek out their very own inexperienced thumb and develop their very own — or find one of many hundreds of dwelling growers or black-market sellers prepared to assist them.

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