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

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little more 99-percent-ish than usual.

Whatever your sentiments in regard to the nationwide (and perhaps global) Occupy movement that began with Wall Street, I think many of us recognize the impulse that propels it: A sense of complete power and invincibility among a select few, while the mass of us are tossed upon the shifting seas.

The seas got even choppier yesterday, when an Arizona prosecutor announced his findings in regard to the Fiesta Bowl scandal: No one—at least, no elected officials—will be prosecuted in the ticket probe.

(I stress the “elected officials” part because one person—the Bowl’s former chief operating officer—has already been indicted. In November, a grand jury handed down charges against Natalie Wisneski, the bowl’s second-in-command. Time will tell whether anyone above her takes a fall. She has pleaded not guilty.)

I do not question the judgment of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who made yesterday’s no-charges announcement. He indicated that “inconsistent laws, vague reporting requirements and a requirement that prosecutors prove a defendant ‘knowingly’ violated the law as factors in his decision.” (Not everyone accepts that explanation; read the words of those interviewed by the Phoenix New Times here.)

Nor do I doubt Montgomery’s conclusion that the reporting requirements are vague and make legislators’ action a moving and squishy target. Given those circumstances, he acted as a responsible prosecutor and declined to file charges.

The Occupy movement’s itch starts to ache, though, as Montgomery offered his recommendations for the future:

“Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery intends to ask the Arizona Legislature to pass sweeping reform, including an outright ban or severe restrictions on gifts for lawmakers, following his investigation into the Fiesta Bowl scandal.”

The story, which you can read here, continues:

“Montgomery said he will pressure lawmakers to:

  • Ban all gifts or require the disclosure of all gifts above a certain amount, perhaps $25.
  • Change state statutes to say what gifts are permissible.
  • Increase the frequency of reporting of gifts to quarterly from annually.
  • Create a Web-based reporting system so it’s easier for the public to see what gifts politicians have accepted.
  • Adjust penalties for knowingly or intentionally not reporting gifts to a felony from a misdemeanor.
  • Create a ‘reckless standard’ act that is punishable by a misdemeanor or civil penalty for those who violate the reporting requirements but don’t do it knowingly or intentionally.
  • Increase campaign-finance disclosure requirements.”

Hmmm. Let me return to my assessment of what gives the Occupy movement legs: A powerful and invincible few, and the storm-tossed us.

Former Fiesta Bowl head John Junker (Tom Tingle/AP)

I wish Montgomery luck as he sternly suggests to the few that they should make themselves a bit less invincible. Perhaps the better angels of their nature will prevail, and we will see such legislation in the coming legislative session.

In the meantime, if you or I want any Fiesta Bowl tickets, we’ll have to get them the old-fashioned way: By buying them.

Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona

A noteworthy opinion piece in the Arizona Daily Sun nearly slipped past me unnoticed. But it is a hopeful sign for a chronic Arizona—and national—problem.

In the op-ed, Dennis K. Burke, the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, says that prosecutions are up on Indian reservations.

Depending on whom you ask, low prosecution rates on the reservation has been either a national embarrassment or a misunderstanding about the way things really work.

This “declination rate” (named for the fact the federal prosecutors often decline to prosecute) is being reversed, Burke said. But not before adding, right up in the second graf, “Disturbingly, this recent news coverage [on declinations] distracts from the most important public safety metric—more violent criminals are being prosecuted in Arizona Indian Country than ever before.”

Hmmm—“distracts”? The U.S. Attorney’s Office may be understandably thin-skinned about the issue. They have been hammered pretty hard on it. In fact, in January I wrote about the proliferation of stories on the topic.

I leave it to others to determine whether the heightened news coverage had any impact on shifting priorities in the prosecutor’s office. Maybe not. Of course, that would be the first time in history that the light of day hadn’t been persuasive.

Nonetheless, the list of accomplishments and initiatives Burke lists are impressive. As I did in January, I cheer those efforts, and we look forward to continued successes.

Read Dennis Burke’s complete message here.