Arizona Republic: “The state has given more than 13,000 Arizonans permission to use medical marijuana to treat chronic illness and other debilitating conditions since the program took effect in April, and nearly 11,000 have the state’s OK to grow pot. . . . The Republic asked two leading voices on either side of the medical marijuana debate to offer their opinions on where this confounding issue may be headed.”
Nearly a year after being approved by voters, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act has proven popular with patients, yet much of the Act remains on rocky legal ground.
Six active lawsuits confirm early predictions that such a significant social policy change would engender substantial court action. What wasn’t known was how patients, caregivers and the business community serving these individuals would respond when the State once again attempted to scuttle the will of the voters.
In January of this year Attorney General Tom Horne offered anti-Prop 203 leader Carolyn Short a gift: he could disembowel significant portions of the Act by pitting Arizona’s new law against the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and last but not least, the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, Nixon’s reaction to the social unrest being fomented by the era’s youth – and still the underpinning of Federal law. Once Governor Jan Brewer finally browbeat Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble into being the State’s Plaintiff, Horne petitioned the federal court for a “Declaratory Judgement” stating that the Act did or did not conflict with federal statutue – which of course it does, as it has in every state with a medical marijuana law.
Horne had to know his abuse of the judicial system wouldn’t yield a favorable ruling, but he also knew this: the suit would create confusion and doubt about the Act, weakening public support for a ballot initiative that won by only the slimmest of margins. This would buy opponents time to create a “sky is falling” narrative, dutifully reported by an obedient press: that “medical” marijuana is a sham, a cover for what in actuality is a recreational users program; that dispensaries would attract crime and blight to neighborhoods; that cartels would move in under the guise of being legal dispensaries; and, that medicating patients would cause trouble in the workplace, etc, etc ad nauseum.
This storyline failed during the 2010 election cycle, but could now have the effect sought by opponents. Why? Because due to the Act’s passage and the government’s failure to fully stop its implementation, there are patients legally using marijuana for medicinal purposes, patients and caregivers cultivating crops, and compassion clubs and collectives opening up across the State to provide patients with access to the medicine they voted for – all activities in which just a few wrong steps, misjudgements, foolish or criminal acts might be enough to turn the tide of public opinion towards the opponent’s desired goal – repeal of the Act.
Unsurprisingly, some regretable incidents have occurred. The press, rarely missing an opportunity to cast MMJ in a bad light, reports each incident with just enough objectivity to mask its underlying Reefer Madness bias, confirming the worst fears of opponents while stirring doubt among casual supporters of Prop 203 last November.
So,we have a hostile government (with the Legisature reconvening in January), media outlets continually sensationalizing the subject, and well-connected private citizens whose overriding life goal is re-criminalizing personal behaviors we’ve just determined should be legal.
What is IN our favor is significant, if utilized with direction and purpose. Raw assets include 13,000+ patients and caregivers, whose numbers grow daily; responsible business owners whose fledgling enterprises are starting to bear fruit; a nationwide network of supporting advocates who have been down this same rough road; and, the knowledge that a majority of Arizonans from across the political spectrum support the right of patients to have this medicine if they so choose.
Next: An actionable plan for advocates.
[Note] Although many know me as an insurance agent providing coverage for compassion clubs and grows, in a former life I worked ten years for an elected official. My political experience also includes advising local and state candidates and non-profit lobbying. From these experiences I learned that even underdogs can win – but only if they are in the game.
Today I got an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. The message said
“Seeking a cultivation and product solution to meet the needs of your dispensary? Then attend the Medical Marijuana Industry Forums this week, hosted by the Marijuana Policy Project and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, and sponsored by [deleted]. . . . attendees will have the opportunity to meet with AzMMA Partners who can help contribute to the business plan, DHS application, and actual operation of dispensaries. Partners providing insurance, employee benefits, product testing, banking and credit card payment services, security, and more.”
The message concluded with this statement,
“The Arizona Medical Marijuana Association is a non-profit, membership-based, professional association that seeks to advance interests of Arizona’s medical marijuana profession and the patients it serves.”
On Saturday I got another email message from the same sender that started “Need banking services for your dispensary?” and then proceeded to peddle its banking partner. I am confused. Is the AzMMA a “non-profit, membership-based, professional association that seeks to advance interests of Arizona’s medical marijuana profession,” a sales and marketing organization or is it even a legal entity recognized by the State of Arizona?
One thing is certain – the AzMMA is not is a legally created Arizona corporation or a nonprofit professional association. Although Joe Yuhas either reserved the name “Arizona Medical Marijuana Association” or filed Articles of Incorporation for an entity with that name on March 8, 2011, to date no corporation has been formed in Arizona with that name. Nor has an entity with that name formed outside Arizona registered to do business in Arizona. I just checked the Arizona Corporation Commission’s website and it shows that the Arizona Corporation Commission is working on Articles of Incorporation filed on March 22, 2011, and that it’s time to review documents filed on an expedited basis is five business days. Check the ACC’s corporate status website for yourself and see if you can find an entity formed in Arizona or registered to do business in Arizona under the name “Arizona Medical Marijuana Association.”
The AzMMA’s emails and its website claim it is a “professional association.” It’s website even claims that is was formed in 2010 shortly after the passage of Proposition 203. Technically, even if it were an ACC approved corporation the AzMMA could not be a professional association under Arizona law. The terms “professional association” and “professional corporation” under Arizona’s statutory law refer to a specific type of corporation formed pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 10-2201 et seq. Section 10-2211, states:
“a corporation may elect professional corporation status under section 10-2210 solely for the purpose of rendering professional services, including services ancillary to them, and solely within a single profession.”
Arizona’s professional corporation statutes only allow certain professionals such as doctors, lawyers, Realtors, and accountants to form an Arizona professional association and the corporation’s activities are limited to practicing the profession through its licensed professionals. I have no idea why the AzMMA wants to be or claims to be a “professional association.”
Another thing I noticed is that the AzMMA is very stealthy. When it sent letters to the Arizona Department of Health Services commenting on the proposed rules, the AzMMA had a graphical logo and its name on the letterhead, but no address or phone number. The AzMMA’s website does not have an address or a phone number or even a name of anybody associated with the organization. Why the secrecy? Why can’t the public know where to find the AzMMA and who its leaders are?
For some baffling reason the AzMMA seems to be the media’s go-to quote-machine whenever something happens related to Arizona medical marijuana. For example, the Phoenix New Times, the Arizona Capitol Times and the Daily Courier all called Andrew Myers of the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Association” for comments when DHS released the final rules on March 28, 2011. Perhaps the story writers should do a little investigative journalism and find out more about the secretive and not quite able to incorporation AzMMA. You would think that a reporter would do a little fact checking before writing a story and quoting a person who claims to be part of a nonprofit association that in reality is not a validly existing Arizona entity.
Tomorrow and the next day the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association and the Marijuana Policy Project are sponsoring a four hour forum with six speakers who will talk about Arizona’s medical marijuana laws. Will Humble is one of the speakers. Why is Will Humble providing his name and the authority of Arizona Department of Health Services in assisting the AzMMA to make a buck? The price of admission is $300. Not bad for a self-proclaimed “nonprofit association.” The sign-up page for the forum is on the Marijuana Policy Project’s website. It says, “If your company wants to sponsor this pair of events for $5,000, please email MPP at RobKampia@mpp.org.” Again, not too shabby for a “nonprofit association.”
Besides the AzMMA, there are four sponsors (4 x $5,000 – $20,000) for the event:
- Gammage & Burnham law firm – It’s providing an election law attorney (?) and two zoning attorneys (?) as forum speakers.
- TAG Employer Services was founded by Ron Bleich and Jack Biltis in 2003
- National Cannabis Industry Association whose board of directors includes Joe Yuhas (of Riester and the AzMMA), Rob Kampia (of the Marijuana Policy Project) and Ken Kulow (of Chameleon Glass and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry Association). Kampia and Yuhas are speakers at the forum.
- Medicine Dispensing Systems – distributor of the marijuana vending machine.
It appears that the forum may be a way for MPP to raise money for its own use. One of MPP’s stated purposes is to “Change state laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for the medical and non-medical use of marijuana.” Whether or not you agree with MPP’s purpose, it just doesn’t seem right for Will Humble and ADHS to assist MPP and AzMMA or any organization to raise money for their private purposes.
Question for Mr. Humble: If another fledgling Arizona medical marijuana industry association (there are a lot of these outfits vying to become the industry’s support organization) were to ask you to speak, would you speak for 30 – 60 minutes so it could charge sponsors $5,000 and attendees $300? If not, why do it for the secretive AzMMA?
- “Arizona Association of Dispensary Professionals Declares War on Arizona Department of Health Services, Marijuana Policy Project & the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association“
- “What is the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association?“
Phoenix New Times: “Most Arizona residents prefer larger cultivation facilities for medical pot and residency requirements for dispensary owners, says a poll commissioned by the folks who brought you Prop 203. Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association spoke of the poll results today at the medical marijuana rules hearing in Tempe, and gave us a handout afterward. Yuhas is a partner of the Riester PR firm, and he and Andrew Myers have been the most visible supporters of the state’s new medical marijuana law.”
Something called the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Association” (AzMMA) has gotten a lot of publicity in the Phoenix area ostensibly as an Arizona medical marijuana support group, but it is not clear what the AzMMA is or if it even exists. In December a lot of people, including me, attended a four hour talk presented by the AzMMA on Arizona’s Proposition 203 and the new medical marijuana law. The AzMMA charged me an admission fee of $300.
I checked the Arizona Corporation Commission’s database today and found that there is no entity formed in Arizona called the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association. On October 10, 2010, a firm called Suzette M. Brown, PC, PO Box 11528, Glendale, Arizona 85308, apparently filed Articles of Organization for a limited liability company to be called the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, LLC.” However, this company has not yet been approved and does not currently exist. The Arizona Corporation Commission says that there is a potential conflict with an entity name reservation for the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Corporation” obtained by Curtis A. Shelton on October 19, 2010.
A bigger problem, however, for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, LLC, is that Arizona Revised Statutes Section 29-602 prohibits an Arizona limited liability company from having the word “association” in its name. If the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association wants to be an Arizona entity, it must form a corporation. Curtis Shelton currently has first dibs to the name until his name reservation expires on February 17, 2011.
What I cannot tell from the record is if either of the above Arizona Corporation Commission filings were for our beloved, but non-existent Arizona Medical Marijuana Association manned by Andrew Myers and Joe Yuhas. Is their AzMMA the third group that wants what apparently is a very popular name?
There is a website at www.azmma.org that apparently is a website for the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, but there is no there there. This site lacks meaningful content and consists of a single page with a small amount of text. The homepage states:
“During its formative stage, the AzMMA invites you to participate in our organizational efforts.”
This statement is apparently total BS. On December 27, 2010, and every day for the next three days I called Joe Yuhas who the newspapers say is the AzMMA man. I wanted to discuss a very disturbing statement that one of my clients attributed to Mr. Y about the proposed Arizona Department of Health Services rules. Despite leaving daily messages for four days asking Joe to call me, he blew me off and to this date has not returned my call. In practicing law in Arizona for 31 years, I don’t ever remember calling somebody that many times and not getting the courtesy of a call back.
Why do Myers and Yuhas continue to say they are involved with a non-existent entity? Who are the members of this non-existent entity? Are there any members besides Myers and Yuhas? Where are its offices? The January 7, 2011, cover letter Andrew Myers sent to Will Humble with the AzMMA’s comments to the first draft of the rules does not have an address or phone number for Myers or the AzMMA. Does anybody care? Myers letter refers to the leadership of AzMMA, but who are its leaders and why is their identity not made public?
If the leadership of this want-a-be organization cannot form an Arizona entity for their group and if the group does make its address and phone number and leadership public, why do Myers and Yuhas have what appears to be a very close relationship with Will Humble and the Arizona Department of Health Services and why does the media give Myers and the AzMMA so much press and credibility? Just yesterday Will Humble and Andrew Myers were interviewed simultaneously on Phoenix’ National Public Radio affiliate. What a co-inky-dink! Read about and listen to the February 4, 2011, radio interview at “Will Humble & Andrew Myers on KJZZ Radio.”
P.S. Alan Sobol and his Arizona Association of Dispensary Professionals also are not happy with the AzMMA. See “Arizona Association of Dispensary Professionals Declares War on Arizona Department of Health Services, Marijuana Policy Project & the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association.” Beware of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Corporation and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, LLC and a semi-secret club that really likes those names!