The Tempe and Phoenix locations of the Arizona Patient Education Center, which provided medical marijuana to state-registered patients, were raided on Thursday by Phoenix police.
"These guys applied for a (dispensary) license but didn't have one, but it doesn't matter anyway because they're not allowed to sell marijuana," says Sergeant Tommy Thompson, Phoenix police spokesman.
Police shut down the businesses' two offices at 209 East Baseline Road in Tempe and 4150 West Northern Avenue in Phoenix.
No arrests were made, but police are conducting an "ongoing investigation" into APEC's operations. Thompson says both places were owned by the same person; police aren't ready to release his name.
Asked if the business used the "club" model we've written about previously, in which donations are made in return for "free" medicine, Thompson says, "We're quite certain they were actually selling."
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act prohibits sales of marijuana except by licensed dispensaries, but that hasn't stopped several places around town from offering education and "free" marijuana to donors. The APEC bust comes after other raids that have made the news:
* The DEA raided Arizona Go Green in November and turned the case over to the state Attorney General's office, which dropped the charges.
* In March, the Phoenix New Times wrote an article about the Arizona Cannabis Society in El Mirage. The business was raided and shut down by police in April. Court records show that the founder, Bill Hayes, an outspoken marijuana activist, hasn't yet been charged with a crime.
Other cannabis clubs remain open around the Valley, but it would seem their operations are risk.
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Sobol is also a defendant and plaintiff in ongoing Maricopa County Superior Court civil cases concerning the legality of the compassion clubs and their marijuana-distribution services. Last summer, state Attorney General Tom Horne filed a lawsuit in an attempt to have a court declare that the clubs are illegal.
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The question of the clubs' lawfulness hasn't yet been answered by a judge -- but that hasn't stopped police and County Attorney Bill Montgomery from moving ahead with raids and prosecutions.
It's unclear why law enforcers care so much about busting accused pot sellers, though perhaps it's just a case of old habits dying hard.
In a few months, state-authorized dispensaries are expected to open that will provide medical-marijuana to qualified patients.
If anything, these compassion clubs are guilty of little more than offering a legal product a few months too early, (and without the proper license).