Kimberly Yee and Sheila Polk Use Power to Prop Up Marijuana Prohibition
Earlier this month, Polk led the Yavapai Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution supporting marijuana prohibition. When New Times asked Board chairman Rowle Simmons why prohibition was better than legalization, he said he didn't know -- and that Polk had asked him to vote for the resolution, so he did.
In an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling last month, Polk was allowed to ban a medical-marijuana user from using marijuana as a term of probation.
But the court stymied Polk's plan to extend the ban on every person taking a plea deal in Yavapai County.
The case stemmed from a DUI bust in which a woman who had a .237 BAC was also found to have marijuana in her system. Polk's plea deal for the woman ordered her to "not buy, grow, possess, consume or use marijuana in any form, whether or not Defendant has a medical-marijuana card..." as a term of her probation.
When a trial-court judge struck the provision from the plea deal, citing the state's Medical Marijuana Act, Polk told him she would divert all change-of-plea cases to a different judge from then on, and would try to find judges "more agreeable to the probation term."
In an October 2013 memo Polk circulated after the trial judge's decision, Polk explained her reasoning for banning marijuana use by anyone taking a plea deal was that "marijuana continues to be banned by federal law and is ... a harmful addictive substance."
Polk further explained in the memo that she had instructed her prosecutors "to include the standard marijuana provision in every plea agreement."
For various reasons, Judges Jon Thompson and Lawrence Winthrop wrote in the 2-1 opinion that the trial court had erred by refusing to let Polk ban the DUI defendant from using marijuana as a condition of her probation, and that the lower court judge should have applied an "individualized analysis." (The third appellate judge, Margaret Downie, dissented on technical grounds.)
The appeals court supported Polk's "use of this condition" for the woman, noting that she had behaved "recklessly and engaged in disruptive behavior" while on booze and pot.
Yet the judges drew the line there, saying they "disapproved" of Polk's attempt to create a "blanket provision," which they felt would "not satisfy the prosecutor's duty to make an individualized determination of what is reasonably beneficial to the public good."
We don't know whether Polk has continued to use a blanket provision against those taking a plea regardless of the ruling, which stops short of ordering her not to do so. Polk was out of the office when we tried to reach her today.
No doubt, Polk and Yee, as two of the state's foremost anti-marijuana voices, will keep up their fight -- even if they appear to be on the losing end of history.
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