Aug 282012

By Linda Kor
The battle continues over Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) as state and county prosecutors ask a court to rule that the voter-approved law be proclaimed illegal on the grounds that it violates federal drug laws.
The voter-approved law allows for people to be provided marijuana for medicinal purposes if prescribed by a physician. It also allows for those people or their caregivers to grow their own marijuana if a dispensary is not located within 25 miles of their residence. Recently the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) conducted a lottery selecting a specific number of dispensary companies that could submit dispen-sary applications for areas throughout the state. The ADHS is currently in the process of reviewing those ap-plications as they are submitted for approval.
But even a company selected to submit a dispensary application may not have an easy road to actually opening a dispensary. In a case pending in Maricopa County Superior Court, White Mountain Health Center is suing Maricopa County and the ADHS after the county denied a zone clearance for a dispensary in Sun City. The refusal by the county came after Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery informed county officials that their employees could face prosecution for aiding and abetting drug crimes should the request be approved.
Recent filings in the case by both Montgomery and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne ask the judge to dismiss White Mountain’s lawsuit on grounds that Arizona’s law is illegal.
In his filings, Horne noted that he recently issued a legal opinion concluding that the state law decriminal-izes possession of medical marijuana under state law. But he also clarified that possessing, growing, selling and dispensing marijuana remain federal crimes.
In filing their lawsuit, White Mountain Health Center officials stated that there has been no declaration that the AMMA is pre-empted by law, nor has any federal court issued an injunction or order blocking the implementation of the AMMA.
Governor Jan Brewer had filed a lawsuit in federal court in an effort to protect state employees from pos-sible federal prosecution based on their activities in administering the medical marijuana law. The case was dismissed last January when a judge determined that the case detailed no concrete or imminent threat of en-forcement.
While the battle over medical marijuana continues in the courts, the battle over illegal marijuana continues on the streets. Earlier this month two Holbrook men were arrested when law enforcement officials discovered each had been growing marijuana plants on their property.
On Aug. 16, detectives from the Navajo County Major Crimes Apprehension Team arrested Gaven Martinez, 61, after 29 mature marijuana plants valued at $29,000 were reportedly found to be growing at his home in the 300 block West Florida Street. Martinez was charged with possession of marijuana, production of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was was not booked into jail, but felony charges will be sought through the Navajo County Attorney’s Office, according to the sheriff’s office.
On Aug. 21, detectives arrested Kenneth Ashcraft, 57, after reportedly finding drug paraphernalia, multi-ple weapons and 27 mature marijuana plants valued at $27,000 growing at his home in the 1300 block of Westover Avenue. One of the weapons found in Ashcraft’s residence, valued at $400, had been reported sto-len. Ashcraft was charged with production of marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of stolen prop-erty and possession of a weapon by a prohibited possessor. He was booked into the Navajo County Jail and later released on his own recognizance by the Holbrook Justice Court.

Photo courtesy of the Navajo County Major Crimes Apprehension Team
These marijuana plants found Aug. 16 at Gaven Martinez’s Holbrook home were valued at $29,000