Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery Issues "Polite" Threat to Phoenix Pot Conventioneers

The county's top prosecutor, an avid marijuana prohibitionist, has issued a "polite" warning to business owners, community members, and pot aficionados planning to attend the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center later this month: We might be watching you.

"Local [and] federal law enforcement may be on hand in an undercover capacity. Welcome to Phoenix, enjoy your stay, but be careful." — Bill Montgomery

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During a presentation on drug abuse this week, in which he unveiled an anti-heroin TV ad that features a brief of scene of people apparently smoking marijuana, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery mentioned that he's aware of the cannabis-friendly convention. 

"As an aside, just a polite warning to folks traveling here," Montgomery said. "Recreational marijuana is not legal in Arizona. Some folks who are traveling from out of state and may be engaged in business transactions at the Phoenix Convention Center, you could be violating state and federal law when it comes to trafficking in marijuana. And I can't confirm or deny whether or not local or federal law enforcement may be on hand in an undercover capacity. So welcome to Phoenix, enjoy your stay, but be careful."

The event runs October 27 and 28, with a job fair on October 26. Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Steve DeAngelo, author and founder of Oakland's Harborside Dispensary, are among the planned guest speakers.

No cannabis will be permitted at the convention, says Demitri Downing, an industry expert and spokesman for the event, adding that convention staff will enforce the rule if need be. Still, Montgomery's warning is a "concern," Downing admits. "I don't know how far he'll take his comments."

Having a high-profile Republican politician target the convention isn't unusual, of course, but it's a bad message to send out nationally during a time when the cannabis industry brings in money for the state, he points out.

"Arizona isn't as friendly a location as it could be," he says. "It's like saying, 'Hey, don't bring your money to Phoenix — keep it home,'" Downing says.

New Times is media sponsor of the cannabis conference, along with title sponsor MJ Freeway Business Solutions.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.