Arizona Cannabis Society Raided by Phoenix Police

Arizona Cannabis Society, a medical-marijuana caregiver collective featured prominently in a March New Times blog post, was raided today by Phoenix police.

Founder Bill Hayes is still being detained, cops say. However, police have no intention of booking anyone into jail today, says Phoenix Police Sergeant Trent Crump. Several people found at the three locations where warrants were served were detained briefly and released.

Crump says the operation was well out-of-bounds of the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. After a month and a half of undercover work, police served search warrants on three locations related to AZCS. At one location, nearly 900 pot plants were found -- yet not a single person involved was a qualified caregiver, Crump says.

Under state law, qualified pot patients can grow up to 12 plants each. Caregivers can grow the same 12 plants for up to five patients each.

In other words, cops are saying the cannabis club had way too many plants.

Beyond that, Crump says, evidence turned up that the club was not operating as a non-profit, as Arizona law requires of a medical-marijuana dispensary.

AZCS has two locations, one in El Mirage and another in Phoenix. Crump declined to reveal the third location, or whether it was a residence or commercial building.

In March, Hayes invited New Times out to document the collective's pot-growing operations, believing his business model is legal under the voter-approved 2010 Medical Marijuana Act.

Whether he's right about it being legal remains to be seen.

This is at least the second raid since state Attorney General Tom Horne filed a lawsuit in Superior Court over the club-concept, seeking a court ruling about the clubs' legality. Judge Dean Fink has yet to make a decision in that case.

Club operators say they distribute marijuana only to the 25,500 state-approved patients after verifying their registration cards.

Cops reportedly sent an armored personnel carrier to one of Arizona Cannabis Society's location for the noontime raid.

Hayes, who once spent a year in prison for growing pot, is also an outspoken activist for marijuana. In February, Hayes filed a lawsuit against Arizona in federal court in the hopes of changing part of the 2010 medical-pot law. The law allows qualified patients and caregivers to grow pot -- but not if they live within 25 miles of an open dispensary. Hayes wants to patients to be allowed to grow pot regardless of nearby dispensaries.

A big reason for the existence of the clubs in the first place is that Governor Jan Brewer took it upon herself to flout the wishers of voters by canceling the dispensary portion of the 2010 law.

Brewer's plan to stall the pot law, which she spoke against before its passage, was shot down by the courts. The state Department of Health Services, which oversees the administration of the pot program, will begin taking dispensary applications for a 10-day period starting May 14.

Crump says police intend to submit criminal charges against one or more people connected to the Arizona Cannabis Society.

We'll give updates about this case and others involving clubs when we learn more.

See the slideshow we published last month about the AZCS by clicking here.