Director of Arizona Department of Health Services Not Worried About Being Charged with Violating Federal Marijuana Criminal Laws

In an April 29, 2011, forum at the Phoenix Country Club sponsored by Valley Partnership, Will Humble, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said that he personally is not worried that he might be prosecuted by the federal government for aidding and abetting the commission of crimes involving federal marijuana criminal laws.  He made the statement in response to a question that asked him to comment on the April 14, 2011, letter from the two Washington state U.S. Attorneys to the Governor of Washington who asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder if the U.S. would prosecute Washington state employees who implement Washington’s recently enacted medical marijuana law that provides for the creation of state legal medical marijuana dispensaries.

In an April 13, 2011, letter to the U.S. Attorney General, Washington Governor Christine 0. Gregoire asked:

“It would be very helpful to receive clear guidance on the Department of Justice enforcement position and whether the 2009 Memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Ogden should be read to encompass the activities that would be licensed under this state legislation. Also, it would be helpful if the guidance addressed whether state employees involved in inspecting the premises, auditing the records or collecting fees from the licensed dispensers, producers or processors would be immune from arrest or liability when engaged in the enforcement of this licensing law.”

The next day, Jenny A. Durkan, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, and Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, sent Governor Gregoire a letter in which they said:

“the Department could consider civil and criminal legal remedies regarding those who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries as they will be doing so in violation of federal law. Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, including property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know that their conduct violates federal law. In addition, state employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability under the CSA. Potential actions the Department could consider include injunctive actions to prevent cultivation and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations of the CSA; civil fines; criminal prosecution; and the forfeiture of any property used to facilitate a violation of the CSA”

Mr. Humble said he is concerned about the affect the U.S. Attorney letters and news stories might have on DHS employees involved in implementing Arizona’s medical marijuana laws, especially DHS IT personnel.

Here are my notes from the one hour forum.

  • Phoenix Planning Director Debra Stark gave a list of zoning jurisdictions that require special zoning documents and those that do not.  The following do not require either a use permit, a conditional use permit or a special use permit:  Glendale, Surprise, Buckeye, Goodyear, Avondale, Mesa, Tempe, Fountain Hills, Tucson and Flagstaff.  The following require either a UP, a CUP or a SUP: Peoria, El Mirage, Carefree, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, Phoenix and Maricopa County.  After the forum I asked her how long it would take for a prospective dispensary to get the comfort letter from the Phoenix zoning department.  She said five days, but the letter would say that it is subject to the applicant obtaining a special use permit before opening for business.
  • Will Humble said that a financial institution can issue the bank comfort letter if the not-for-profit entity or one of its principal officers has $150,000 or more of cash on deposit, a $150,000 letter of credit or gold valued at at least $150,000.
  • When asked who DHS would consider to be the ideal owner of an Arizona medical marijuana dispensary, Will Humble said it is an owner whose primary concern is to do what is in the best interest of the patients.
  • Will Humble made a statement about the duties of the medical director that troubled me.  He said that the medical director has a duty / responsibility to make sure that patients of the dispensary do not abuse marijuana.  The DHS rules prohibit the medical director from having a patient doctor relationship.  How would it be possible for a medical director who is not present at the time of a sale or interaction between dispensary staff and the patient who is abusing marijuana to know: (i) about the abuse, or (ii) to take any action to prevent or help stop the abuse?

See “Washington Legislature Passes New Medical-marijuana Law, Governor Threatens Veto” and “U.S. Attorney Will Prosecute Dispensary Owners, Landlords who Rent to Dispensaries & State Employees Involved in State Medical Marijuana Laws.”

By |2011-05-01T07:19:00-07:00April 30th, 2011|Stories & Articles, Will Humble Speaks|Comments Off on Director of Arizona Department of Health Services Not Worried About Being Charged with Violating Federal Marijuana Criminal Laws

Will Humble on the Final Version of the Arizona Department of Health Services Rules

Today Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble said:

“We’re finished making our policy decisions regarding the final medical marijuana rules, and our rules team will be spending Friday and probably part of the weekend crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on the final medical marijuana rules.  We’ll be releasing them on our website first-thing on Monday morning.  We’ll also be having a media conference at some point later that day.  We’ve developed a long set of Frequently Asked Questions to help prospective qualified patients, caregivers, dispensary applicants and physicians understand the final set of rules.  While the final rules will be posted on Monday, the actual law takes effect at the start of the business day on April 14.  We expect to be ready to go on the 14th.

We believe the final rule package accomplishes most of our objectives which include:

  1. ensuring convenient access for folks with debilitating medical conditions identified in the Initiative;
  2. ensuring access to the medication in rural Arizona;
  3. clear expectations regarding criteria for medical marijuana certifications;
  4. a way to identify physicians that act unprofessionally and write certifications for recreational use;
  5. a fair, effective, and orderly way to award dispensary licenses this year and in future years;
  6. clear medical, administrative, inventory, and security expectations for dispensary operation;
  7. reasonable compliance and enforcement provisions;
  8. a clear method for adding debilitating medical conditions over time;
  9. efficient administrative oversight designed to minimize cost; and
  10. reasonable fees that will cover the costs of implementing the program.

Over the last few months we have carefully examined medical marijuana programs in other states, reviewed more than 3,000 comments from the public on our 2 draft rule packages, and used the full range of expertise and creativity among our staff to develop what we believe is a responsible set of regulations that will ensure the near-term and future success of the program.  Thanks for all the hard everybody!

By |2011-03-25T07:12:20-07:00March 25th, 2011|Will Humble Speaks|Comments Off on Will Humble on the Final Version of the Arizona Department of Health Services Rules

Arizona Department of Health Services Director on Implementing Proposition 203

Here are some interesting statements from Will Humble, the Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, the agency that will oversee Arizona’s medical marijuana law.

On how DHS will determine which applicants get one of the 124 dispensary licenses:

“There are probably a number of ways to do it, but 3 come to mind right away.  We could, for example:

  1. Use some kind of first-come first-served process and simply approve the first 124 complete dispensary applications;
  2. Place the complete applications in a pool and have some kind of random drawing on a particular date; or
  3. Evaluate the complete applications using some kind of objective criteria (such as the professional quality of their business model, security plan, customer validation and inventory system etc) and select the best applications from the stack for approval.

Method 3 is probably the best because we’d be able to select the best of the qualified applicants”

On the proposed implementation schedule:

“Implementing the Act will take at least 4 months… and we expect to be able to accept our first applications for medical marijuana (Cannabis) cards and dispensaries in early April, 2011.  In the mean time, we’ll be developing the Administrative Code (Rules) for actually operating and regulating the program.  Here is our schedule for Rule development:

December 17, 2010: ADHS posts an initial informal draft of the Rules.

December 17, 2010 – January 7, 2011: ADHS receives informal (electronic) public comment on the initial informal draft Rules.

January 31, 2011: ADHS posts official draft Rules for public comment.

January 31, 2011 – February 18, 2011: ADHS receive public comment on a revised draft of the Rules.

February 15 – 17, 2011: ADHS holds 3 public meetings about the draft Rules

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 – 1 pm, 250 N 17th Ave., Phoenix

Wednesday, February, 16, 2011 – 1 pm, 400 W. Congress, Room 222, Tucson

Thursday, February 17, 2011 – 1 pm, 250 N 17th Ave., Phoenix

March 28, 2011: ADHS publishes the final Rules that will be used to implement the Act.”

By |2010-12-19T17:31:35-07:00November 29th, 2010|Dept Health Services, Will Humble Speaks|Comments Off on Arizona Department of Health Services Director on Implementing Proposition 203