the-onion-logoEvery now and then you read a mainstream media piece that makes you think The Onion has taken over the news director’s chair.

You know The Onion, right? No? Take a look at this, and, darkly, this.

But today’s story came my way via The Puget Sound Business Journal. Mainstream? Yep.

The headline, though, reveals something of the oddity faced by a state that is flipping the switch on whether something is legal: “Marijuana experience required: WA recruiting experts to advise on legalization.”

As the majority of my high school graduating class sat up and took notice, the article explains:

“Washington is looking to hire experts in the marijuana industry to help the state Liquor Control Board get the tightly regulated state-licensed cannabis business up and running. Voters approved Initiative 502 to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana in November. Since then, the state has issued a request for proposals to hire consultants who can advise the board on the nuances of establishing a successful, well-regulated system.”

Nuances. Uh-huh. I get it.

Washington’s Liquor Control Board is searching for consultants to help it create a legal marijuana industry. One part of the job would be coming up with regulations for edible products containing marijuana, like these available for medical-marijuana patients at CannaPi Consulting dispensary in Seattle. (Puget Sound Business Journal Photo | Anthony Bolante)

Washington’s Liquor Control Board is searching for consultants to help it create a legal marijuana industry. One part of the job would be coming up with regulations for edible products containing marijuana, like these available for medical-marijuana patients at CannaPi Consulting dispensary in Seattle. (Puget Sound Business Journal Photo | Anthony Bolante)

The reporter, Valerie Bauman, must have had some fun with the story, as she continues,

“Officials are hoping to assemble a consulting team that can demonstrate product and industry knowledge, among other skills that would indicate an intimate familiarity with the currently illegal market.”

Adding to the tongue-in-cheek hilarity is the image the newspaper selected: a retail reach-in case that contained snack foods—”munchies,” as we used to say at Arlington High School. The story explains that among the many things that will have to be regulated in the new legal regime will be “edible products containing marijuana.”

I suppose postings like these are what we may see in Arizona eventually. After all, every industry requires industry professionals. And those pros need to arrive with a skill set.

You owe it to yourself to read the entire story here.

A heartfelt hat tip to my colleague Lisa Bormaster for spotting this gnarly story.

medical marijuana plantsHere’s another unique angle on a unique industry you may not have considered:

Can medical-marijuana dispensaries declare bankruptcy?

To an increasing portion of the populace, medical-pot dispensaries are a business similar to many others—they have a building, some staff, a product.

That’s not to say that everyone wants that business near their home, but an increasing percentage of the population appear to view it as an industry like others—and like some others, one that has some needed regulation.

But a recent case in California throws that into question. After all, if the federal government is a significant holdout in the movement toward acceptance of the medical-marijuana industry, and if the federal government is in charge of the Bankruptcy Courts … you get the picture.

As a story by Stephanie Gleason begins:

“Mother Earth’s Alternative Healing Cooperative Inc. is in some trouble. The San Diego startup that opened last year is facing debt, the threat of eviction from its landlord and is involved in litigation. To deal with these issues, the company did what many would—on Wednesday, it filed for Chapter 11.

“However, Mother Earth isn’t just any business. It’s a medical-marijuana dispensary, licensed by the state of California and San Diego County, but it’s seen as illegal by the federal government. And, for now, it’s unclear whether the company can deal with its debts this way. After all, the Bankruptcy Code is a federal law.”

Read the complete story here.

In Arizona Attorney, we have covered broader aspects of the medical-marijuana controversy, specifically the dialogue over it in this state. But the intriguing question about bankruptcy is a good one. For if an entity cannot avail itself of bankruptcy protection, can it ever call itself a business?

What is your answer to the BK question?

Arizona Attorney July-August 2011

This month, I was pleased to see that a great Arizona blawg has been honored by the ABA Journal. The Journal’s annual Blawg 100 recognizes excellence in a wide variety of areas. It’s nice to see Arizona on the radar.

The blog is called Arizoneout, and it’s written by Dinita James at Ford & Harrison LLP. Here’s how she describes the cutting-edge focus of herself and her site:

Dinita James

“Dinita James is a partner with Ford & Harrison LLP and a former newspaper reporter and editor whose journalism instincts tell her that medical marijuana is going to be one of the hottest workplace issues for Arizona employers for the foreseeable future. Through Arizoneout, she hopes to inform, educate, and raise awareness about the myriad issues the legal use of marijuana present for workplaces in the Grand Canyon State.”

You may read more about Dinita here.

I came across the blog quite awhile ago, and I have been charmed by her detailed yet accessible coverage of marijuana and employment issues. In fact, this past year we added Arizoneout to the Blog Network on the Arizona Attorney News Center—and I’m glad we did.

Remember, this ABA Journal thing is a competition, and the top blogs are chosen by vote. So if you’re so inclined, follow the link on Dinita’s page to indicate your support. Or just click here.

In the meantime, were any other Arizona bloggers named? Please let me know by posting below.

Another chapter in the battle of Arizona Medical Marijuana was opened today when Attorney General Tom Horne filed a lawsuit seeking to close four “cannabis clubs.”

Here is the press release:

For more information contact:  Amy Rezzonico (602) 542-8019 


PHOENIX (Monday, August 8, 2011)  —  Attorney General Tom Horne today filed a civil action against four Phoenix-area cannabis clubs and one individual that falsely claim to be operating lawfully under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).   The action is for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief and is filed on behalf of the State and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“The law permits one card holder to give marijuana to another card holder.  But is does not permit the activities of these Defendants, who charge fees to members.  These private entities and individuals are in no way permitted to legally transfer marijuana to anybody,” Horne said.  “The operators of these clubs claim that they are protected under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act when they are not registered as non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries as required under that law.  These people are marketing themselves as being able to lawfully transfer marijuana, and that type of deception and blatantly illegal activity must be stopped.”

The filing in Maricopa County Superior Court claims that The 2811 Club, The Arizona Compassion Association, Yoki  A Ma’ Club, the Arizona Compassion Club and Michael R. Miller are all private cannabis clubs or owners/operators of clubs that have claimed they are able to lawfully participate in the possession, production, transportation, sale, or transfer of marijuana in accordance with A.R. S. § 36-2801 et. seq., the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.  However the Act does not offer legal protection to cannabis clubs, cooperatives or any other person, association or entities that are not registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries.  Nor does the act decriminalize the possession, production, transportation, sale, or transfer of marijuana by or through those entities.

This action asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment that each of the Defendants is violating the AMMA and prohibit them from engaging in activities that involve selling, producing, transporting, transferring or possession of marijuana.


It may be too easy to say, but I cannot resist uttering the fact that the medical marijuana seminar is a high point of this year’s Convention. Attendance was well in excess of 200. In a state that has a new medical marijuana law but the legal battles still brew, many came out to get whatever guidance they could.

Panelists addressed the question of federal law preemption and compliance with the new state law. The session was well moderated by State Bar Ethics Counsel Patricia Sallen.

The July/August issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine will cover the same topic in two stories–one examining the federal-state nexus question, and another trying to provide guidance to employers who wish to keep a drug-free workplace. It will be out about August 1.

Pat Sallen, State Bar of Arizona


As you read this, I am somewhere over the United States, stuck in a middle seat my  travel agent managed to secure for me. I’m winging my way to Washington DC, where I will make a presentation to a roomful of association publication experts. More on that later.

As much as I am looking forward to my conference, I am very sorry to miss a newsworthy event occurring in Phoenix today: the grand opening of a 21,000 square foot weGrow Marijuana Superstore.

Medical marijuana is in the news daily, along with the conflict it implicates between federal and state law. In fact, we are planning a story or two on the topic in an upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Are the state leaders who have halted developments in medical-marijuana merely seeking clarity through their lawsuit, or are they thwarting the will of the people? That is a question on the mind of many.

As an example of the controversy, read what E.J. Montini had to say in the Arizona Republic about medical marijuana earlier in the week.

And some have already established a legal defense fund “to protect Arizona Medical Marijuana rights.” (See the press release at the end of the post.)

That’s all well and good, but it’s hard for me to believe that I’ll miss the opening of a place dubbed “the Walmart of Weed.” As weGrow is careful to point out, they do not actually sell marijuana (read more about the company here). But on Wednesday, anyone interested in the next chapter of the state’s pot saga will be at 2937 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ (29th Ave. & Thomas Rd.), where there will be a panel discussion, ribbon-cutting and grand-opening festival.

Oh well, better luck next time.

Here is the press release:

Legal Defense Fund Established to Protect the Rights of Arizonans and Suffering Patients Seeking Medical Marijuana 

Legality of Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Law Questioned

(Scottsdale, Arizona) – On the heels of a lawsuit filed by the State of Arizona to determine the legality of the recently enacted Medical Marijuana Law,  a legal defense fund, Don’t Let Medical Marijuana Die, has been established to protect the will of the voters and guarantee ill patients access to medication that relieves their pain and suffering.

The lawsuit, initiated by the Governor and the AZ Attorney General, puts the future of AZ’s Medical Marijuana Act in question and leaves sick and dying patients wondering when they will be able to relieve their pain and suffering.  At issue in the suit is whether AZ’s law can legally be enacted even though Federal law continues to make possession and distribution of marijuana illegal.  The suit seeks to obtain clarity regarding this seemingly conflicted legal status of medical marijuana laws.

Attorney Ryan Hurley leads the Medical Marijuana Division at Scottsdale’s Rose Law Firm.  While disappointed about the halt on Arizona’s Medical Marijuana program, he feels the lawsuit will ultimately be decided in favor of patients and states’ rights, “Health care providers and medical marijuana dispensary operators shouldn’t have to worry about federal prosecution for simply trying to treat sick patients. Ill patients should not have to worry about access to medication as they battle  HIV, cancer, spinal cord injuries, or multiple sclerosis, just to name a few.  Hopefully this fear of prosecution can be put to rest and the legality of State MMJ laws can finally be upheld.”

Don’t Let Medical Marijuana Die was formed to protect the rights of Arizonans and protect the dispensaries and health care providers who are simply trying to relieve the pain and suffering of their patients. It’s seeking donations to cover their legal expenses in this vitally important battle.  Here is a link to the organization’s website.

The Board Members include:

  • Dr. Daniel Rubin,  Medical Director of Naturopathic Specialists, LLC in Scottsdale, AZ, where he practices full time as a naturopathic oncologist
  • State Senator Robert Meza, a 3rd generation Phoenician who sits on many civic boards
  • Ari Schafer, President of the Civic Center Pharmacy, a locally and nationally recognized source of custom compounded medications not routinely available through the larger chain stores
  • Victor Ostrow, Former General Manager of Rawhide western theme park and a 37 year resident of Arizona. His work in promoting Arizona tourism includes past participation in the Valley of the Sun Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce 

These individuals have courageously stepped forward to protect the rights of countless Arizonans seeking relief from debilitating pain.

Overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2010, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act legalizes medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. 16 other states have done the same.

Last week, I reported that the State Bar of Arizona has issued an ethics opinion that guides Arizona lawyers who may advise clients in regard to the recently passed Medical Marijuana Act.

The complete opinion is here.

The path here has been rocky, to say the least. First, there was some misunderstanding about whether the Bar had taken a position on whether lawyers could assist clients when there was a conflict between a new state law and federal prosecution. Many in the media and the public were dazed and confused. It even led one news outlet to say the Bar’s position obstructed justice.

Following that, the Bar clarified its stance, saying it had not taken a formal position.

Of course, now it has, through its newest ethics opinion.

To add to the education, the Bar will hold a seminar this Thursday on the topic. It’s titled “The Arizona Medical Marijuana Program – Proposition 203 and Beyond.”

According to the preview, “The program will discuss Prop 203, the draft rules, issues related to zoning and employment law and the ethical and criminal issues of the proposition.”

Speakers and their topics will include:

  • Will Humble, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services: Medical Marijuana: Recreation or Medicine?
  • Karen Clark, Esq., Partner, Adams & Clark, PC: Issues related to Prop 203 from an ethics defense perspective
  • Christopher Mason, Esq., Partner, Fisher & Phillips, LLP: How the new law impacts employment
  • Ryan Hurley, Esq., Partner, Rose Law Group pc: Prop 203 and the draft rules and related zoning issues
  • Patricia Sallen, Ethics Counsel, State Bar of Arizona: Ethical issues (including the State Bar’s position) related to Prop 203
  • Theron M. Hall, III, Esq., The Hall Law Firm: Potential criminal issues related to the proposition

Before the CLE, here is a radio news interview (via KJZZ) with Arizona lawyer Christopher Mason regarding workplace aspects of the new law.


Contact: Rick DeBruhl, Chief Communications Officer

Phone: (602) 340-7335, Mobile: (602) 513-6385


State Bar Releases Ethics Opinion on Medical Marijuana Act

PHOENIX – The State Bar of Arizona’s Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct has issued an opinion that says lawyers may assist clients in complying with the state’s new Medical Marijuana Act.

The issue arose because of a conflict between state and federal law, and that conflict’s intersection with legal ethics. Although Arizona’s new law legalizes medical marijuana in the state, federal law still prohibits the manufacture, distribution or possession with intent to distribute. An ethical rule prohibits a lawyer from counseling or assisting a client in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.

However, the newly released ethics opinion says that Arizona lawyers may assist clients under the following circumstances:

  • The client requests assistance for actions expressly permitted by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act;
  • The lawyer advises the client about the potential implications and consequences of federal law (or recommends client seek proper guidance); and
  • The client knowingly decides to move forward with full knowledge of conflicting federal law.

The opinion notes that no court opinion has held that Arizona’s law is invalid or unenforceable and that the federal government has essentially carved out a safe harbor for some conduct that is in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state law.

“In any potential conflict between state and federal authority, such as may be presented by the interplay between the Act and federal law, lawyers have a critical role to perform in the activities that will lead to the proper resolution of the controversy,” according to the opinion.

The opinion is strictly limited to the unusual circumstances created by the adoption of Arizona’s new Medical Marijuana Act. Any court ruling that affects the Act may also affect the opinion.

The full opinion is available here.

State Bar ethics opinions are advisory in nature only and are not binding in any disciplinary or other legal proceedings.

Today’s odd news story comes out of Nevada (I’m pretty sure that’s not the first time I’ve ever written that sentence).

It arises from a state court judge who was confronted with a routine criminal case. Matthew Palazzolo had been arrested for selling marijuana to a police informant in a Lake Tahoe casino parking lot (which is odd, because I thought that’s what casino parking lots were for).

The story reveals that the lad worked at a Sacramento law firm (I’m pretty confident that the past tense is appropriate for the previous sentence). Unfortunately, nothing more is said about what he did at the firm—maybe he was in charge of snacks.

In any case, Palazzolo had initially gotten a California prescription for medical marijuana after crying “sore back” to a doctor. The pot he was arrested for selling? It was home grown.

The judge decided to take a unique route toward rehabilitation. As the story says, “District Judge Dave Gamble ordered Matthew Palazzolo to write a report on what the judge called the ‘nonsensical character’ of California’s medical marijuana law.”

(Yes, I know. His name is Judge Gamble. I don’t make this stuff up.)

Judge Gamble ordered the defendant to write a paper that displays Palazzolo’s realization that pot led him to use more powerful drugs.

This may be unique in court history. I know other defendants have had to demonstrate their contrition in unique ways, sometimes even in essays. But asking a defendant to write a paper which argues that a law is incorrect?

It sounds like it wasn’t just one defendant on trial there. Judge Gamble’s going after California voters.

Now wouldn’t we all enjoy reading that report? It’s due in 90 days—let’s hope it’ll be published (hello, Las Vegas newspapers?!).

Read the news story here.