Medical Marijuana Compassion Club Raid by Phoenix Police Leaps Ahead of Court Case on Legality of Clubs

Categories: Medical Weed

sobol allan 1.jpg
Image: Jamie Peachey
Al Sobol has good reason to believe state Attorney General Tom Horne had something to do with this week's raid on Sobol's medical-marijuana compassion club, despite Horne's denial.

Before Wednesday's raid of a marijuana promoter Al Sobol's compassion club, Phoenix police officials discussed a pending court case on the legality, in general, of such clubs.

Cops then decided to move forward with the raid based on the same, thorny legal questions now before a Maricopa Superior Court judge.

Sobol's place, 2811 Club, LLC, is a defendant in the civil case.

Unlike last month's raid by the Drug Enforcement Agency of a Tempe club, there was no allegation that Sobol's outfit had sold marijuana to an undercover officer.

As Sergeant Steve Martos, spokesman for Phoenix PD, explains, police came to their own conclusions about what the 2010 Medical Marijuana Act would allow, and took action.

The whole situation reeks of dirty politics.

After Governor Jan Brewer canceled the dispensary portion of the voter-approved Act by an under-the-table executive order, compassion clubs began to crop up around the state that offer qualified medical marijuana patients their "medicine." The clubs claim they are legal, because the new law specifically OKs the distribution of marijuana between approved patients.

That part of the law, (ARS 36-2811), also states, however, that nothing of value can be exchanged for the pot. The clubs get around this by charging patients a membership fee, then distributing the marijuana for "free." Typically, the product isn't distributed by the club, per se, but by an affiliated association of caregivers and other patients.

In August, state Attorney General Tom Horne referred the question of the legality of such arrangements to Superior Court, citing the different "interpretations" of the issue. Here's an excerpt from our post back then:


We asked Horne if he was just passing the buck on this decision. If he's so sure the clubs are acting illegally, why not just have the clubs raided and their staffs arrested?

"I'm taking a softer approach," Horne tells us.

Horne denies that he's going the court route because of doubts about the legality of the clubs, explaining that because the law is new and there are many different "interpretations" of it, he believed involving the court system was more "prudent" than directing police to bust the club operators.

"I'm trying to be a good guy," he says.


The resulting court case is now being considered by Superior Court Judge Dean Fink, and as mentioned, the 2811 Club is one of the defendants.

After Horne's action, Sobol filed his own request for declaratory judgment on the issue of the clubs' legality in Superior Court. The latest court minutes show that Fink's set October 28 as the day that discovery phase of the case should be complete -- discovery being the legal term for the process in which both sides gather information about the issue at hand.

Tom Dean, the club's lawyer, derides the raid by Phoenix PD "discovery by other means." He may well be correct.

Phoenix police, Martos says, heard "neighborhood complaints" about people selling marijuana at the 2811 Club and decided to look into it. But that's not the whole story -- Martos admits that police were well aware of the activities of such clubs, including Sobol's, since June due to news media articles about them.

And, of course, Phoenix police supervisors knew about the pending court cases.

However, "in our eyes, there is manipulation of the verbiage of the law."

The clubs may call it something else, but it's still pot dealing, he says.

"We believe it is what it is, and we're going to make charges," Martos says, paraphrasing the conversations police had before the raid.

On Wednesday morning, employees at the club -- located in a strip mall near Interstate 17 and Bell Road -- unlocked the door for the cops, most of whom wore ski masks.

2811 club logo.JPG

Six employees were taken to a holding facility, but not arrested or booked into jail, while police carted off high-grade marijuana, accounting books, TVs, classroom materials and other perceived evidence.

"We kept asking them why they were here, and they kept saying we'd have to deal directly with the Attorney General's office," says Susan Miller, of the club's owners.

Phoenix PD later said it will submit the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for possible charges.

Sobol's outspokenness as a marijuana marketer may have played a role in the raid. Before Arizonans approved the medical marijuana law in November, Sobol made the news with his mock dispensary. He's been a target of criticism by other would-be dispensary owners, who consider his brashness bad for business.

Just two weeks before the raid, , told Channel 10 News (KSAZ-TV) in the aftermath of a Drug Enforcement Agency raid on a Tempe club that his business model didn't include selling marijuana, and thus would be safe from raids.

As police finished up the raid, Miller says, she asked them why they'd selected her business instead of other clubs. She says the lead officer told her, "You guys have made the most noise, so you were the first to go."

Yesterday, we asked Horne about the allegation that his office was involved somehow in the raid, and he soon issued a blanket denial.

Here's Horne's comment:


"It has been reported to me that Allan Sobol, Marketing Director of the 2811 Club, is telling the media that I told the Phoenix Police Department to raid the Club. I did no such thing. I have remained consistent in my position, waiting for a Judge to rule on the legality of the clubs. I have no authority over the Phoenix Police, and had no knowledge of their plans in this case."


Horne just might be telling the truth -- police didn't need his input to conduct investigations into the clubs, anyway. Both Phoenix and Tempe police told New Times back in June, when we broke the story about the rise of the clubs, that they'd be checking those places out.

But Martos says Phoenix PD did confer with the AG's office about compassion clubs in general before the raid. He's not sure whether Sobol's place was mentioned in the discussions with the AG's office, and is trying to confirm for us what happened.

Either way, though, the PD did get the AG's input on clubs. If an assistant AG told cops anything like, "We encourage you to raid one of these places, despite the questions about the law, because Mr. Horne's lawsuit needs a good test case," then the public has the right to know that.

If, on the other hand, Horne's office told Phoenix PD something like "We encourage you to wait to raid one of the places until a judge rules on our case," the public should know that, too.

We put that question to Horne, but he wouldn't bite. He said to get back to him if we confirm that Phoenix officer did talk to the AG's office about the 2811 Club raid before it occurred, which we'll certainly do. (We'll update this blog when that happens.)

"A goddamned lie," is how Sobol characterizes Horne's denial of involvement in the club raid.

Sobol, ironically, wasn't at the club on Wednesday and apparently isn't being accused by police.

He opened back up yesterday, but could only provide patients a forum to sign petitions in support of the club. "Free" marijuana was given away at the club yesterday morning, but the supply ran out.

"It was the biggest day ever this morning -- there was a line out to the street," he says, vowing to allow club members to exchange weed as usual, when more "medicine" becomes available.

Dean, the attorney, said he's suspicious that Horne had something to do with the raid, because Horne's side of the civil case involving Sobol's club could be bolstered by a criminal case.

"It's a huge benefit" to Horne, Dean says. "They're able to circumvent the civil discovery process."

For example, Dean says, if one of the employees pleads guilty to selling marijuana at the club, that could be entered as evidence for Horne's side in the civil case, making it hard for the club to argue it wasn't selling pot.

Horne, an ambitious politician who wants to be governor, could use the potential victory in the clubs case to advance his political opposition to the medical marijuana law.

"You'd have to be in denial to think this wasn't political," Dean says.

Well said, counselor.


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27 comments
Moon7
Moon7

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sun7
sun7

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Follower_of_the_ONE
Follower_of_the_ONE

"Trying to be a nice guy" is probably a lot of effort for a self serving prick like Tom Horne.  This is the man that screwed up Arizona's education system.  This is a man, whose only reason for holding the Attorney Generals office is because his opponent was even a bigger piece of shit than Horne... Andrew Thomas.   There is a concerted effort in this state to circumvent the will of the people, it has permeated the Adminstration, Legislative and Judicial branches of Arizona.

Unitykay13
Unitykay13

AG and other organizations or persons who are trying to block MMJ dispensaries focus your energies on some thing more important like homeless issues...

Follower_of_the_ONE
Follower_of_the_ONE

I'm afraid Kay that if these people concentrated on the homeless it would only create more of them.  What the hell throw a few more people on the streets with no lifeline.  That is a THEOCRACY in action and it's sick.

Piano
Piano

I have read the hundreds of blogs on badphoenixcops.com and cannot beleive what goes on in the PPD.  They give names, dates, allegations and times of their crimes. Pretty ballsy website.It is a little tricky to navigate the websire.  Be sure to go to "blogs" and "xx Comments" and "older posts". You will be able to access hundreds of blog and thousands of posts from people inside the PPD. It is shocking what is taking place in the PPD.

Vince P.
Vince P.

If you want to read about all of the corruption in the Phoenix Police Department, visit this website: badphoenixcops.com

This is the link to the homepage.  Be sure to click on the blog pages to read about the corruption, which PPD supervisors are involved, etc.

Assistant Chief Andy Anderson is mentioned many, many times.  Also the assistant chief in charge of the narcotics division (marijuana raids) and homicide (the failed Sgt. Sean Drenth investigation) is James A. Pina.  Read all about him.

filthy assistant
filthy assistant

Back when Sobol opened, didn't Phoenix PD accept his invitation to see the club and offer advice/ critiques on the operation?  Not sure how relevant that is (if at all), but the 2811 Club raid seems an odd turn of events after Sobol's initial outreach to PPD.

Cannabiscatrina
Cannabiscatrina

Instead of "trying to be a good guy" he could just be one and resolve these issues intelligently and humanely.

LAVIDATALENT
LAVIDATALENT

i dont understand why the politians are taking matters personal, they should be fired  THE PEOPLE VOTEED THIS LAW IN THEY SHOULD FUCKING DEAL WITH IT

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

The answer to your question is simple. Arizona is not a democracy, it is not part of a republic, it is a hate and fear driven theocracy and the only thing that matters to these people is shoving their hypocritical agenda down everybody's throat. The law means absolutely nothing to them unless it serves to further their bigoted goals.

Albert
Albert

Oh... you mean the legislature, and the governor. Yeah... they pretty much do the will of whats in their best interest, or what other conservative( freedom take awayers) can pull off. Yeah.. Theses guys are amazing... They get a ruling from the Arizona Supreme Court  in 2009, that tells them not to touch Arizona Voter enacted legislation, and they do it all over again.. Multiple times. Granted, quite a few of them were new to the legislature, but there were a lot who voted for these illegal changes in the law. And whats sad, is that we even have some legislatures that are attorneys, and they vote to break the law. From HB2541 - that added every prop 203 patient to prescription monitoring database, which violates patient confidentiality language in prop. 203. HB2585 - Employer protection bill.. violated more of citizens rights, by giving employers to fire, place out on the street, suspend for just looking like you could be impaired.And reducing health care coverage for Arizonans, when the voters passed this legislation.  Gutting 500 million from the health fund, and giving businesses a 538 million tax break, oh they called this a jobs bill, but it had no provisions or writing that required business'es to hire a single person. They took money from a science foundation, and redirected funds to the health department. And not to mention they drained 29 million from an account that had to do with renewable energy, and only said people would get repaid, after they were outed, by what they had done.

Paula Pennypacker
Paula Pennypacker

I cannot believe this.  AZ is over $8.5 billion in debt and we are spending money raiding compassion clubs.  Unbelievable!!!  Three times we the people voted for medical marijuana and three times far-right politicians have thwarted the will of the people.  The war on drugs in unconstitutional -- something that keeps escaping these so call "constitutional conservatives."

Im103mike
Im103mike

Arizona voted to enforce illegal immigration laws and the Federal Government said, NO, you can't do that. Arizona voted to have Medical Marijuana and the Federal Government said, it's still illegal I guess states have no rights.

Albert
Albert

The Federal Government has the right to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization".  And that's what gives them the Supreme power option.... I suppose????   But what to tell people what they can do and put into their own bodies is not something they have an enumerated right/power.  It's called LIBERTY... the choice to chooses to do something that doesn't infringe on someone else's Constitutional Rights Again, look at alcohol... it took a Constitutional Amendment to ban alcohol, and another to repeal it. Why?? Because alcohol was a  Liberty.. And I think it might be the only Amendment taking away an American Right. Product-wise

Coz
Coz

Sure you are you Tom Horney Dog you, wink, wink...

>"I'm trying to be a good guy," he says.

JoniB
JoniB

I just don't get why the politicians & police are having trouble with this.  The voters approved this TWICE.  What part of "we, the people" don't they understand?

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

First Pearce puts up a sham candidate to defraud the voters and now Atty Gen LegHORNE puts up a sham prosecution to defraud the legal system. 

Is there any creature as slimy as an Az. CONservative? Obviously, there are none slimier.

GaneshB
GaneshB

The basis for the *Original* suit (resulting from the Fed AG's nasty Gram threatening Civil Servants for supporting a criminal organization) is the cause.

I agree with the intrepretation.  more than 13,000+ AZ residents now hold cards, and believe they immune to Federal Law. 

Lets begin by Prosecuting the Governor For Signing the Law.Next the Secretary of State for 'recording' the law.Presumably, many officials presided over the election results, should also be prosecuted.Finally, the 50+% who voted for the Law...

This is so funny...as a Medical Patient, the Feds say I can't have a firearm.  I can't have medicine.  Then they actually buy and ship the damn things to the Cartels.  Can I save time and money, and just mail my .40 cal to Mexico now...??

All these politicians, and they claim I am the one on drugs...?

Albert
Albert

Thats B.S.  Congress isn't supposed to touch or restrict the people's guns/arms Rights!! It should take a Constitutional Amendment to take away anyone or everyone's ARMS RIGHTS. And not by some federal statute...because the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land .Congress isn't supposed to pass any law that infringes or limits or takes a away any Liberty or Right we have under the United States Constitution. Its simple, but the congress and the courts have Fuc*ed us one this one.

 The section in the Second Amendment.. that says, the right of the People to keep and bear arms SHALL not be INFRINGED. Because it says SHALL... that is what courts claim is compulsory = 1 Required by law. INFRINGED= 1 Actively break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.) 2 Act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on: "infringe on his privacy".  So how, and by what authority does Congress have to limit anyone's Constitutional Rights. Sorry... it's not in the Constitution. Those 2 words prohibit Congress from touching people's ARMS RIGHTS!!!!!  Federal statues are Unconstitutional if they violate, or diminish rights given to the American People by the Constitution.  I'm not making any of this up... It's what is written in the Constitution. And really there really isn't any need to interpret this. By taking that phrase, and incorporating the 2  definitions I gave, a person with basic understanding can figure out what the Second Amendment means. And US Code/Law  and State laws..that aren't consistant with the Constitution are NOT legal. I'm not a judge, and I can figure that one out.  14th Amendment -Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Hipi
Hipi

the word is coming down from way higher up than Phoenix Police. As much as we love to hate them, the enemy this time is bigger. 

Seedy Ward
Seedy Ward

Well, they just picked a fight with a tar baby, maybe with a bunch of tar babies.

teknik1200
teknik1200

it's medicine for sick people, voters approved this, yet the police are describing patients as criminals.

"And, of course, Phoenix police supervisors knew about the pending court cases.However, "in our eyes, there is manipulation of the verbiage of the law."The clubs may call it something else, but it's still pot dealing, he says."We believe it is what it is, and we're going to make charges," Martos says, paraphrasing the conversations police had before the raid."Why won't they allow sick people access to their medicine?

Albert
Albert

There is no manipulation.... It's simple the law was created for patients, and dispensaries. Patients still have the right to get their medicine, and since the dispensaries probably wont be happening.The AG, and the police are trying to force these clubs out of business, and claim they're not following the law. The dispensary part of the law does not apply to clubs... They are a private club, and who does not sell marijuana. Private clubs exist all over the country, and they have many benefits that they offer their members. 

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