Will Humble, director of the state Department of Health Services, got the notion to ask the state Attorney General's office whether cannabis clubs were legal after reading last week's feature article in New Times, says a DHS spokeswoman.
We figured that might have been the case and wrote in a blog post on Friday that:
... it's probably no coincidence that Humble's announcement comes on the same day New Times published a comprehensive article about medical marijuana that prominently mentions the clubs.
In fact, says DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley, Humble had taken a copy of last week's edition with him to his kid's dentist's office, where he read the above-linked story, "Growing Pains."
The next day, he called the AG's office and verbally asked for the legal opinion, Oxley says, then published a blog post about the request.
Our suspicious mind had wondered if Governor Jan Brewer had asked him to make the inquiry to the AG's office as political cover, which was why we asked the DHS how Humble got the idea to call Tom Horne's shop.
Also following our coverage, the Arizona Republic and KTAR (92.3 FM and ktar.com) published pieces on the quandary of cannabis clubs.
The AG's office is expected to come out with an opinion "very soon," according to KTAR's write-up. That article also quotes Maricopa County Bill Montgomery, who stopped short of declaring the clubs' activities illegal.
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Staff members at some of the clubs tell New Times they're confident they're operating within the boundaries of the law. Qualified patients pay dues to the clubs, which offer "free" marijuana as part of the club benefits. Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, pot can be passed around legally from patients or caregivers to patients as long as "nothing of value" is exchanged for the marijuana.
We find it highly interesting that Montgomery, as paraphrased in the KTAR article, said that "if anyone was found to have violated the nothing of value exchange portion of the law, that they will be prosecuted for a Class Four felony."
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Imagine that -- you're either perfectly legal or in danger of being prosecuted of a serious felony, all based on the meaning of the word "value."
Whether Horne will deem the clubs legal or not, the reality is that thousands of people are now qualified to use marijuana legally to treat various ailments but have few options to find their "medicine." That's because Brewer and Horne have derailed -- for now, anyway -- the dispensaries approved by voters in November's election.