Drug Law

Arizona Sheriff Arpaio Takes On New Medical Marijuana Law

| by NORML
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, already infamous for his treatment of immigrants and prisoners, has now set his sights on Arizona’s new medical marijuana patients following the passage of Proposition 203 by voters last November.

Arpaio on Wednesday announced the formation of a special unit targeting people who violate the state laws, claiming he “wanted to be prepared for criminals who believe that Proposition 203 will allow them to deal marijuana with impunity,” reports Deborah Stocks at ABC 15.

The Sheriff is so far alone — other police agencies in Arizona are waiting for finalization of state Department of Health Services rules regulating medical marijuana before assigning resources to control abuses of the law, reports JJ Hensley at The Arizona Republic.

A DHS official said police had “offered input” into the rules, just like the public, prompting changes to rules related to transporting medical marijuana. However, nothing is final until March.  Police officers statewide will get medical-marijuana training in two phases, according to Lyle Mann, executive director of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. The first will cover basic issues that a street-level officer might face, such as what 2.5 ounces of cannabis looks like, what medical conditions qualify to legally posses marijuana, and how to identity out-of-state documents authorizing medical use.

The second phase, in spring, will focus on “higher level” issues, Mann said, including dispensary fraud, transporting marijuana and organized criminals who could target patients, caretakers and clinics.

Arpaio chose not to wait for the training. But his bragging about a unit to target medical marijuana is seen as largely symbolic at this point.

The Sheriff, never shy about self-promotion, compared the medical marijuana issue to immigration, in that he was in the “enforcement vanguard.”

But the Sheriff’s Office has since found itself under federal investigation for activities related to immigration enforcement. Sad to say, that’s probably the “quality” of work we can also expect from the medical marijuana enforcement division.

“I’m wondering where his ‘oxy’ squad is,” one Republic reader, “FredCDobbs,” commented on the paper’s story.

Sheriff Arpaio’s Special Enforcement Unit will work in partnership with former Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Agent in Charge Doug Hebert — who vociferously spoke out against the medical marijuana law before it was passed last fall.

Great, Sheriff — now you’re bringing in your fellow pot-hating DEA agents to do everything you can to stymie safe access for patients. (Sheriff Arpaio is himself a 26-year veteran of the DEA, and was formerly head of the department in Arizona.)

“Targeting criminals trafficking ‘medical marijuana’ outside the law… will be no different than DEA targeting those in the medical and pharmaceutical profession who violate public trust by illegally prescribing, dispensing, and possessing controlled pharmaceutical drugs,” claimed Agent Hebert.

Former DEA Agent Hebert is so into his new marijuana-fighting position that he’s working for free. The Special Enforcement Unit so far consists only of Hebert plus two paid deputies.

Hebert, who is a board member for the Partnership for a Drug Free America/Arizona, fought hard against passage of Prop 203 last year. He claimed that the initiative was a “vehicle to legalize marijuana,” and that it was an effort to “prey on voters’ sympathy,” reports Jon Hutchinson at the Verde Independent.

So how do you think former DEA Agent Hebert is going to treat patients and providers under Arizona’s medical marijuana law? Since he hates the law so much and called it a “vehicle to legalize marijuana,” do you really think he will treat those operating under the law with respect?

Arpaio claimed that whether or not he agrees with the medical marijuana law, he will “not stand in the way of those operating legitimately and legally under state law.” Yeah, we’ll see about that, Joe. My eyes are on you.

But maybe the Sheriff does have a dog in this hunt. Arpaio said he is hopeful that revenues derived from sales tax on medical marijuana will be used to help pay for “law enforcement costs.” Piggy fought against the law, but doesn’t mind feasting at its trough!