Tom Horne, Arizona Attorney General, Worked With Anti-Prop-203 Leader Carolyn Short on Federal Lawsuit Idea

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne discussed a plan to launch legal action against the state's medical marijuana law during a January sit-down meeting with the law's biggest opponent.

Carolyn Short, who led last year's unsuccessful campaign to defeat Proposition 203, refers to the meeting in a February 16 letter to state Department of Health Services Director Will Humble:

On January 10, 2011, [former Arizona U.S. Attorney] Paul Charlton and I met with Attorney General Horne to discuss our conclusion that implementation of Prop 203 would subject you and other ADHS employees to federal prosecution for violating the Controlled Substances Act ("CSA").

AG Horne suggested that he could file a declaratory judgment action, asking a court to determine whether the implementation of Arizona's law would subject you and other ADHS employees to the risk of federal prosecution under the CSA.

Last month, Horne and Governor Jan Brewer put that idea into action and filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, asking the federal court to make a declaratory judgment on the legality of Arizona's new law.

The officials claimed at the time that a letter to Humble by U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke prompted them to file the lawsuit. Though Horne and Brewer had openly opposed Proposition 203 before voters passed it, Horne claimed to reporters last month that he and Brewer were taking a "neutral" stance on the new law.

Short's letter lays rest to the notion of neutrality. And it makes Burke's May 2 letter, which merely reiterated that marijuana was against federal law, (okay, there was some new stuff about the potential risk to "property owners, landlords and financiers), appear to be little more than political cover for Horne and Brewer to launch a pre-planned attack.

Short e-mailed the letter to New Times yesterday after we asked for records of her contacts with Horne or Brewer, the state officials behind the recent attack on the law. She's a die-hard marijuana prohibitionist who makes no excuses for her activism:

"We did not stop working after the law passed," Short tells us.

She waffles a tad, however, when we ask whether anyone working with the "anti-203" campaign contacted the offices of Brewer or Horne directly after Burke's May 2 letter was made public. Though she didn't recall talking to the politicians or their representatives about Burke's letter, she says she's not sure if anyone else did. (Short adds that at one point, Horne asked her group to become a defendant in the lawsuit. She declined "because our interests are aligned with the Department of Justice...")

Short disagrees that Horne and Brewer are doing what she wanted: She's urged officials to cancel the whole program.

Horne and Brewer, in conjunction with their lawsuit, directed Humble to start rejecting applications for marijuana dispensaries, but they've allowed the DHS to continue taking applications for qualified patients and "caregivers" who can obtain pot legally for up to five patients.

We talked to Horne briefly about medical weed yesterday, asking him about how the decision was made to reject dispensary applications while accepting the other applications We're still gathering info on that angle; Brewer's office hasn't returned a message we left on Monday.

Horne confirmed to New Times that he had met with Short in January, but that was before we'd seen the letter. We're hoping to chat with him again about this issue.

Also worthy of more exploration: The February 16 letter by Short states that two weeks after the meeting between her and Horne, the AG "indicated that he would not file a declaratory judgment action because his 'client, Will Humble' did not want him to do so."

Laura Oxley, spokeswoman for DHS, says she'll pass a message to Humble for us -- naturally, we want to ask him who changed his mind for him. Humble's position, after all, is dependent on Brewer's whim.

Besides mentioning Horne's idea for a federal lawsuit, Short's letter lays the groundwork for the theory that state employees are at risk of being prosecuted by the feds simply by carrying out the wishes of voters. A legalese-filled memo published on Short's Web site ( months ago reaches the same conclusion.

Horne and Brewer claimed last month in public statements and their lawsuit -- in which they are plaintiffs, by the way, against those who would defend the will of voters -- that they're concerned about the fate of state employees.

Yet Burke never threatened state employees in his own letter, and the idea that the Obama Administration would arrest Will Humble for rolling out a voter-approved medical marijuana program seems far-fetched. Burke even stated publicly after the lawsuit was filed that he never intended to arrest state workers.

We'll take a quick moment to remind you that Horne and Brewer don't give a roof rat's patoot about seem to respect what the feds think when it comes to the immigration-related laws, SB1070 and Prop 200, the latter of which was approved by voters in 2004. As can be seen in our blog post yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled that Prop 200 -- which requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote -- is unconstitutional -- but that's not stopping Horne and Brewer from defending it.

Brewer and Horne could have let Burke and the DEA make the first move against Arizona voters, then defended the medical marijuana law as vigorously as they're defending the immigration laws.

Instead, the governor and AG appear to be working in concert with Proposition 203's opponents to defeat the law by any means necessary.

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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.