Medical-Marijuana Companies Won't be Thwarted by Location of "Reverend" Al Sobol's Church, Judge Rules

Categories: Medical Weed

See also: Medical-Marijuana Dispensary Sues Fountain Hills Over Competitors' Distance From "Church" Run by Pot Marketer Al Sobol

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Image: Jamie Peachey
Al Sobol (left) talks with a medical-marijuana patient.

A judge has refused to overturn a decision by Fountain Hills to authorize medical-marijuana dispensaries near an alleged church run by by medical-marijuana marketer Al Sobol.

Following a hearing on Tuesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled that the Town of Fountain Hills did not act unreasonably in issuing preliminary zoning approval to several companies and individuals, even though the addresses of the potential dispensaries are located within 500 feet of Sobol's church. Sobol has mail-order minister credentials from the Universal Life Church.

As we reported in our July 17 blog post, the Nature's Healing Center, a would-be dispensary company that appears to have ties to Sobol, sued Fountain Hills after the town issued zoning approvals to several of its competitors.

The proximity to Sobol's church at 16929 East Enterprise Drive should have caused the town to reject the competitors' zoning applications, Nature's Healing Center argued.

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Image: YouTube
Bruce Bedrick

Fountain Hills will only get one of the 100-or-so dispensaries expected to open around the state in the coming months. After voters approved 2010's Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, the state Department of Health Services decided that only one dispensary could inhabit each of 126 arbitrarily drawn "CHAAs," (Community Health Analysis Areas), in Arizona. Competition is fierce for each CHAA, and in most CHAAs, several companies are vying to be chosen. The DHS will hold a random drawing on August 7 to select one qualified applicant for each CHAA.

Nature's Healing Center wanted to be the only valid applicant in the Fountain Hills CHAA, ensuring that only it could be chosen in the DHS drawing.

But Judge Cooper refused to make that happen. Fountain Hills is legally allowed to apply reasonable discretion in issuing zoning permits, she noted in her ruling. Even a small part of the property intended to be used by Nature's Healing Center encroaches on the 500-foot boundary bubble created by Sobol's church, the site of which Sobol began leasing in March. No evidence was presented by Nature's Healing Center that the actions by town officials in approving the competitors' zoning applications was "unreasonable, irrational, or an excessive use of power," Cooper wrote.

The defendants, all would-be dispensary owners, were suspicious that Sobol had opened the church specifically to thwart them. They included: the Healing Company, the Medicine Room, LLC, Nels Pederson, Vladimir Buer, Lawrence Berle, Hedjazi LLC, and Mark and Kimberly Steinmetz.

Sobol testified in Tuesday's hearing that he didn't know the Nature's Healing Center principles and had no business deals with them.

Yet the evidence indicated a possible tie. Fountain Hills' senior planner Bob Rodgers wrote to Sobol on May 17 that he'd had a conversation with Bruce Bedrick, the founder of Nature's Healing Center, about the church's status as a non-profit. Rodgers' letter refers to Bedrick as Sobol's "representative," though both Sobol and Bedrick maintain they had no business relationship. Bedrick told New Times he couldn't recall why he talked to Rodgers about Sobol's church. Bedrick also said it was a coincidence that he'd recently considered buying the building inhabited by Sobol's church.

On Tuesday, Cooper told the defendants in the case that it was irrelevant, for the purposes of the hearing, whether or not Bedrick and Sobol were scheming together. And now, because of her ruling, it really is a moot point.

The competition is still in the game.

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jose257 topcommenter

How come they don't teach in Sunday school that original holy oil contained oil from marijuana?  Could it be that the church has been hijacked by reefer madness psychopaths?



How did I KNOW, that if ANY Scumbag was going to attempt to skirt the law for their own advantages, it turns out to be Sobol!  He's SCREWED more MMJ patients than you could actually IMAGINE!  This guy was really involved in the passing of 203, yet he turned around and NARCED on EVERY other business in the State having to do with MMJ.  But c'mon Al....  A FUCKING Church?  You're so crooked that when you die, they're going to have to SCREW you in the ground.  Quit trying to skirt the FRINGES of the law, and quit NAMING every other business owner and their address, because YOUR "1911 Club" was RAIDED and shut down because you were operating ILLEGALLY!


During alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on treatment. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?



“To function as the founders intended, our republic requires that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

 —Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787


Fortunately we are left with one last peaceful avenue for change: Jury Nullification.


Jury Nullification is a constitutional doctrine that allows juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty but do not deserve punishment. All non-violent 'drug offenders' who are not selling to children, be they users, dealers or importers, clearly belong in this category. 


If you sincerely believe that prohibition is a dangerous and counter-productive policy, then you must stop helping to enforce it. You are entitled to act according to your conscience:  Acquit the defendant/s if you feel that true justice requires such a result. You, the juror, have the very last word! 


* It only takes one juror to prevent a guilty verdict. 

* You are not lawfully required to disclose your voting intention before taking your seat on a jury.

* You are also not required to give a reason to the other jurors on your position when voting. Simply state that you find the accused not guilty!

* Jurors must understand that it is their opinion, their vote. If the Judge and the other jurors disapprove, too bad. There is no punishment for having a dissenting opinion.


“It is not only [the juror's] right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” —John Adams


We must create what we can no longer afford to wait for: PLEASE VOTE TO ACQUIT! 



Left PHX and now it's legal there but they are shutting the door on 600+ co-ops/dispensaries  in LA. Can't figure out which State is more backwards. CA or AZ... How is cigarette Jan Brewer involved and good ol' Joe?


Al Sobol is a real piece of shit. Nothing more than a scumbag making money off sick patients.  I can't wait for this shithead to go to jail. Will be the best thing to ever happen to the AZ MMJ movement.


Good luck to all the real dispensary applicants in the Fountain Hills CHAA.


I thought Universal Life was insurance. Huh?



 It's California's (operators) fault...The used names like "Amsterdam Options", "Kush Doctors" and every kid 18+  with a skateboard crash, got a MM card!  Then, you have people making millions per year on the dispensery side. What did they think was going to happen? If they had kept it legit and kept things "clinical" versus, Yeeehaww!  Pot's legal now! This might not have happened to the scale it has.


But that's California, first to set the trend and first to burn it down...

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