A new medical-marijuana club managed by Allan Sobol -- an industry huckster and pot-business pioneer -- says it will give away up to an eighth of an ounce of "high-grade" pot for "free" to qualified patients.
Naturally, there's a catch. The club charges members a hefty $75 in dues each time they come in.
Yeah -- that doesn't sound "free" to us, either. But the promotion isn't a typical bait-and-switch business ploy.
In a manner similar to another pot club we told you about on Friday, the free-pot concept is designed to put "medicine" in the hands of the state's 6,000-plus medical pot patients -- legally.
Sobol's business model flouts Governor Jan Brewer's ban on dispensaries. And it's designed to make lots of money for the for-profit 2811 Club, LLC.
Sobol, whom we've mentioned previously in articles about the budding industry, is the general manager of the club, which opens to marijuana patients on July 4. (The name refers to the law that, in theory, allows such clubs.). The club is at the same north Phoenix strip-mall storefront used by Sobol as a mock dispensary last year: 17233 North Holmes Boulevard, Suite 1615.
Arizona Corporation Commission records show that the LLC's principal member is Shawn Whitton. The marijuana will be provided by coalitions of registered marijuana caregivers, one of which is called the Arizona Compassion Association. The system remains within the boundaries of the new law, Sobol claims.
"I don't know where it comes from," Sobol says of the "free" medicine that will be given to dues-paying club members. "I don't have to know where it comes from."
Most of the marijuana, he says, apparently comes from that grown by caregivers, who are licensed by the state to provide marijuana to up to five patients. The caregivers can legally grow up to 12 pot plants for each patient.
"They have a lot of excess, and they've decided to distribute it," Sobol says, adding that Phoenix police "agree what we're doing is perfectly legal."
Under ARS 36-2811, card-holding patients aren't subject to penalties:
For offering or providing marijuana to a registered qualifying patient or a registered designated caregiver for the registered qualifying patient's medical use or to
a registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary if nothing of value is transferred in return and the person giving the marijuana does not knowingly cause the recipient to possess more than the allowable amount of marijuana.
Qualified patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot.
The for-profit 2811 Club will make donations to the caregiver associations occasionally to help them offset the costs of growing the pot, he says.
Club members gain free access to classes offered by Sobol concerning all areas of the marijuana industry, from cooking with pot to using vaporizers and bongs. The clubhouse will offer fun activities, too, like karaoke night. But no one will be able to use marijuana there, Sobol says.
"That was at the request of local law enforcement, and -- more importantly, at the request of our insurance company," he says.
Unlike the burdensome requirements associated with the planned dispensaries, the club model supposedly doesn't need to adhere to zoning requirements or any regulation whatsoever.
Sobol says he's aware of about 10 other similar clubs throughout the Valley, (none as good as 2811, he crows), and that these clubs will replace the on-hold marijuana dispensary system. Even if Brewer changes her mind and allows the Department of Health Services to begin accepting dispensary applications, the club concept won't go away, he predicts.
Indeed, without all the overhead expenses of dispensaries, 2811 Club, LLC's business model seems to be nothing less than Sgt. Stadanko's "last bastion of free enterprise left in America."
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