Gilbert Police Raid Tempe Medical-Marijuana Shop; Officers Seize Pot, Make No Arrests

Categories: Medical Weed
ferguson gary 300w.jpg
Image: Ray Stern
Garry Ferguson, founder of the Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group, says he'll continue to offer patients a safe place to get their medicine despite a raid by Gilbert police last week on his Tempe business.

Gilbert police made another medical-marijuana raid last week -- this one at the office of a Tempe advocacy group where patients sold pot to other patients.

About 4 p.m. last Thursday, cops -- some in masks -- entered the small office of the Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group, in an industrial complex at 2011 East Fifth Street. They placed the founder, an employee, and several customers in handcuffs for more than an hour and searched the place. Several ounces of weed, including live plants, were seized.

The bust had at least one major difference from the raid of a medical-marijuana patient's Gilbert home last week, in that it involves a new type of business in which pot is sold openly between qualified patients.

But the fact that no arrests were made seems to cloud the idea that Gilbert police have the law on their side.

The group's founder, Garry Ferguson, says he's confident that he'll prevail, yet acknowledges he's pushing the boundaries of Arizona's voter-approved medical-marijuana law to bring "medicine" to patients.

"It's almost as though Gilbert has declared independence from the government of Arizona," says Ferguson, who walks with a severe limp because of a 2003 motorcycle accident. "They are deviants of the state. I accept their challenge."

He says he told police, "I would continue to do tomorrow what I'm doing today."

And, as far as New Times could tell when we visited his office on Monday evening, he was. At least one customer, a qualified patient, was at the business obtaining medical marijuana, and Ferguson showed us five tall marijuana plants in the restroom. (He says the plants, which were donated to the group after the bust, would be moved soon to a secret location.)

Gilbert Detective Jason Roman, who left his card at the office, wouldn't comment about the raid when we phoned him last night. The agency's spokesman, Bill Balafas, told us that the raid was unrelated to the previous one at the Gilbert home of a patient.

The advocacy group appears to be only one of several similar businesses that have cropped up in the Valley. They're not licensed dispensaries, because Governor Jan Brewer and state Attorney General Tom Horne have ordered the state Department of Health Services to reject dispensary applications after the filing of their lawsuit against the new law.

Ferguson and his office manager, Rachel Russell, say they're performing a valuable service for the thousands of registered medical marijuana patients who have few good, legal options for obtaining pot. Although qualified patients can grow up to five 12 plants themselves legally, that's obviously not as convenient as buying pot from a store.

The Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group has "hundreds" of clients, says Ferguson, and before the raid offered various strains of buds as well as edibles and tinctures for patients who'd rather not smoke.

The raiding party told members of the group that it was acting on a tip, Russell says, and they questioned whether the individuals' registration cards still were valid considering the attempted derailment of the medical marijuana program by its opponents.

Ross Taylor, the Gilbert homeowner whose home was raided June 9, also told New Times that Gilbert police seem to be confused about the validity of the cards.

"They kept telling us that the law was on hold," Russell says.

That's not the case, but it's unclear whether the advocacy group's role as a quasi-dispensary really is legal under the law.

Ferguson sleeps in the shop. Although he claims to own some property near rural Sanders, Arizona, he says he's technically "homeless."

A few weeks ago, Ferguson says he figured what the heck -- he needs a job, likes "questioning authority," and knows a good business opportunity when he sees one. He scraped together some money, contacted a doctor who could make referrals and launched the business. The company made $6,000 in sales last week, so he knows he's on the right track.

Ferguson's medical condition, which is related to his massive back injuries, is obvious, and every other member is a bona fide patient, they say.

The group helps file the state paperwork for patients and has connected with expert growers.

"It's like a co-op of people helping me -- and helping themselves," he says. "I supply a safe place for people to go."

We'll be checking into the situation over the coming days, both in this case and the other "co-ops" around town.

The answer to the legality, it seems, will be borne out by the actions of prosecutors. If there's enough wiggle-room in the law to allow these kinds of companies, perhaps dispensaries -- which can't be permitted now anyway -- aren't even needed.

 

UPDATE: Gilbert police bust yet another medical marijuana patient.



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197 comments
Jack
Jack

He is in trouble, and will lose due to his own ego.

ReadtheStatute
ReadtheStatute

Listen, I'm a fan of the cause, but I've read the statute a bunch of times and I see a couple problems with Ferguson's position that he/any of the qualifying patients present duirng the raid were in total compliance with the law.  An early chapter in the lengthy statute basically states a qualified patient can provide another qualified patiend with medicine, but nothing of value can be tranfereed in exchange (see ARS 36-2811, sect 3).  According the article in the AZ Rep  last week quoting him, Ferguson states that patients are allowed to sell to one another because of a latter portion of the statute (ARS 36-2815), which addresses reasons for card revocation and basically says that if  a patient sells to a non-patient, then his/her card shall be revoked.  While maybe a bit contradictory, I think arguing that patient to patient "sales" are legal just because patient to non-patient sales is listed as reason for card revocation seems like a flimsy argument...especially when it says in an earlier section that nothing of value can be exchanged if one patient provides meds to another patient. Now maybe he'd have a a better argument if the $6k came from club member "donations" and not sales.

Cybercy
Cybercy

How come nobody else is picking this story up?  The local daily has not printed one word about it even though I sent a letter to the editor regarding the story,  They won't even print this.  In fact, I haven't heard anything more from New Times either.  What's up?

Susan Rastella
Susan Rastella

He must be using Sheriff Arpaio as a role model.  God help Gilbert if he is.

Keepingitreal
Keepingitreal

Also, how does Gilbert PD get involved in this? I also heard on the news that Gilbert got  a "tip" on this business. 

Any thoughts?

Keepingitreal
Keepingitreal

Hello all,

This is very interesting. I personally know Garry Ferguson very well actually. From my understanding he cannot be selling Medical Marijuana i thought this was only for dispensaries.... Can i also get a copy of that police report and how do i obtain it?

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

What I don't understand is why, other than the NT, is no other media source in the valley even mentioning this?

i370H55V
i370H55V

police officers are "peace" officers throughout the entire state. they are given that title from azpost. this means that any peace officer certified through azpost can enforce arizona revised statutes all over the state. obviously it isnt practical for a mesa officer to travel up to camp verde to write a red light citation but technically they could. i guess you could compare this to something like a doctor that works in the ER of shc shea and for some reason went to john c lincoln to work for a night. just because they are employed by shc doesnt mean they arent a doctor outside of that building or "jurisdiction". a jurisdiction is determined by the city an officer works in. doesnt mean they cant work outside of it. hope that helps.

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

Why would they wear masks unless they knew they were breaking the law?    Cowards.   Are they afraid of pot growers?     They act like terrorists.    They are terrorists.    There is no police department in Gilbert any more.    Who would issue a warrant for this except somebody who's in someone's back pocket?     Sue their asses off and make them pay for the settlement.   After all they broke the law.     Citizens don't have to pay for their criminal behaviour.   Let the chief be the first to sell his house.

Frankblack
Frankblack

The news article above is unreasonable search and seizure, the taking of a persons property without due process of law as well as being a police agency operating outside of their jurisdiction. I wonder if the insurance company used by the Gilbert police covers the officers who might receive injuries as a result operating outside their area of jurisdiction? Gilbert officers -  is that a risk you are willing to take? Medical bills are pretty expensive these days. Something to think about the next time you are asked to do something STUPID!

words
words

I would really like to see a qualified reporter do a televised news story and take Gilbert to school on these medical marijuana raids. Get them on camera with their dirty feet in their mouths.

words
words

What the fuck is wrong with the PD in Gilbert?

These are some seriously out of whack priorities or very, very bored cops. If they have dispensable police officers, maybe there is room for some budget cuts!

Does the Police Chief in Tempe have anything to say about this?

Hotel Mike
Hotel Mike

America, land of the free; Free to the power of the people in uniform...

RetiredArmy
RetiredArmy

So is the Gilbert School system fully funded? Do all of the children in Gilbert go to bed with a full belly and in good health? Because it would seem that Gilbert has money to burn if they can afford to go after sick people for using a now legal medication.

I'd say they really need to spend some of that money they are wasting to send their police back to school. They seem to be having a hard time with reading comprehension. The law is pretty clear but they seem to be having a hard time understanding it.

Gilbert PD is demented, and my karma bring them everything they deserve.

words
words

Yes you can only grow if you are not within 25 miles of a dispensary.

Thank Jan Brewer, because right now, there are none!

Susan Rastella
Susan Rastella

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Garry Ferguson
Garry Ferguson

My name is Garry Ferguson and yes it seems as though it has gotten silent. Weird huh ? Always ask why ?

Garry Ferguson
Garry Ferguson

I have a lot of thoughts on how they got the tip. I will investigate before I accuse. Also the selling of marijuana is covered in ARS subsection 36-2815 and on the Arizona Department of Health Services QP30 (google pulls it right up). I will not legally advise you on interpretation but it is fairly simple. I am not a dispensary either. I am an Advocacy Group.. Call whenever I am all ears if you want to talk. 480 332 2458.

J Curwen
J Curwen

Lots of mainstream news outlets are frequently behind the curve on many issues. NT has often broken stories that later become big news. I think partly it's editorial policy at the other outlets, and partly it's just a lack of staff dedicated to investigative reporting. NT just happens to excel at this sort of journalism.

Garry Ferguson
Garry Ferguson

This is how they explained to me that it was legal for them to do what they did.... However I broke no statute. They got the warrant via ARS subsection 13. There was no violation of ARS 36, which is the card holders law.

Coz
Coz

Piss off spammer. I wouldn't but anything from you just because you're a spammer.

Coz
Coz

I'd be surprised if they had a warrant at all.

Gunit
Gunit

How would a search warrant be an illegal search and seizure? Why waste the time to type a comment that is so obviously incorrect.  

Garry Ferguson
Garry Ferguson

Other media sources were contacted by me. I have heard nothing back.

Pit Boss
Pit Boss

I think this behavior is partially out of boredom. I live in Gilbert and it's as sleepy a city as you can find in the Valley. I don't know of one "bad" neighborhood here, unlike Chandler, Mesa and Tempe. My guess is that they are overstaffed and trying to justify their payroll by trumping up erroneous charges. Considering the recent news regarding a freeze on all dispensary licenses due to a plethora of idiocy among our politicians, the Gilbert Police Chief will make a case for being "confused" about its enforcement and therefore try to get off the hook using ignorance as a defense. Expect several firings and demotions to follow. The local LEOs are learning from the best how to push blame on subordinates.

But in the meantime, he got his name in the news and he's branded himself an Arpaio-type. So expect him to have a loyal following of rednecks and magic underwear-wearing Mormons supporting him no matter what.

Garry Ferguson
Garry Ferguson

This is the real issues and they are showing it in almost ever area of life. To bad we are the targets for them and sheer entertainment. Kind of like the ROMANS.

J Curwen
J Curwen

Actually, anyone who gets a card and selects the growing option is good to grow for a year (at least). The 25 mile rule kicks in after dispensaries are up and running.

Gunit
Gunit

These comments are so ignorant and overflowing in stupidity. Conspiracy? Really? Lay down the bud and educate yourselves.

Gunit
Gunit

Because you’re wrong maybe? The news would be all over police misconduct, as they typically are. The lack of response should be a sign of how your court case will go.   

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