Billy Hayes, Marijuana Activist, Busted Again in Vapor Lounge Raid

Phoenix police have busted marijuana activist Billy Hayes for the second time in two years in connection with running an unauthorized medical-marijuana dispensary.

Hayes seems to have more lives than a cat, so we're not betting yet on whether Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery will be able to secure a successful prosecution.

See also: - Medical-Marijuana "Vapor Lounge" Allows Patients to Toke Up

Hayes was behind the Arizona Cannabis Society, a caregiver collective we wrote about in February of 2012 that grew buds for patients in an El Mirage warehouse. A few weeks after our article appeared, Phoenix police raided the place and claimed the co-op had exceeded the number of marijuana plants allowed by state law.

Hayes was never charged in that case. He separated himself from the ACS, whose new backers went on to turn the same location into a legitimate, state-authorized mmj dispensary.

Hayes turned his business acumen to the Cannabis Spot Vapor Lounge, a place where card-carrying patients could become members, smoke their medicine in a private setting, (next to a bar that sells booze, a much more dangerous drug), and obtain "free" marijuana with the purchase of raffle tickets.

The flagship of the would-be franchise, at 4230 West Dunlap Avenue, had a good run. But after the January blog post in New Times, tons of promotion and advertising and finally, this week, an interview of the "bar manager" (we're not sure if it was Hayes) by Channel 5 (KPHO-TV) reporter Morgan Loew, police made their move on Hayes and the Vapor Lounge.

Police arrested at least five people, including Hayes. Four criminal charges are being sought against him: Illegal control of an enterprise, using electronic communications in a drug transaction, and possession of marijuana and narcotics for sale.

According to news reports, Bill Montgomery, the county's chief prosecutor, said on Wednesday that anyone operating one of these unauthorized dispensaries would be on the hook for potential drug-dealing charges.

Owners of state-approved dispensaries have been trying to get the cops to do something about the wildcat clubs, which compete with them.

As we've been reporting since the bust of Garry Ferguson's shop in 2011, these clubs have sprouted up because of the bad-faith actions by some Republican state leaders whose personal views on marijuana don't mesh with the majority of voters. While Hayes and others involved in the co-op and clubs don't deserve harsh treatment, in our humble opinion, the need for the clubs seems to have diminished greatly in recent months with the coming of dozens of approved dispensaries.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, stated in a recent blog post that his agency has handed out 61 operating permits to dispensaries at this point, with 21 more joints scheduled for final inspection.

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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.