AZ to MA: Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You…Vote No on Question 3

AZ to MA: Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You…Vote No on Question 3

In April 2012, this letter was sent by the “Keep AZ Drug Free” the group opposed to the “medical” marijuana initiative in Arizona. The equivalent of Massachusetts Question 3 passed by just 4,200 votes or 2/10% in Arizona.

Every tactic, false promise, and deception of the pro “medical” marijuana movement cautioned in this letter, and more, has been experienced in Massachusetts. The consequences and buyers’ remorse will predictably follow as well. We still have a chance.  Learn what’s in the law and Vote NO on Question 3 on November 6, 2102. Here’s the letter…

Dear [Massachusetts Senators:]

As a result of false promises and unheeded warnings, Arizona is now dealing with blatant recreational use and promotion of marijuana, increased DUI, increased crime, fights to keep dispensaries out of neighborhoods, costly litigation, and threats of federal enforcement action.

Please don’t be misled by phony promises. There are many unadvertised, adverse social and economic consequences of “medical” marijuana laws.

Bait and switch. “Compassion” is the promise. “Widespread recreational use” is the reality.

Compassion? The proponent of Arizona’s “medical” marijuana initiative was the Marijuana Policy Project (“MPP”), a national pro-drug lobby out of Washington, D.C., whose only mission is to legalize marijuana in this country by whatever tactics necessary. Their disingenuous campaign tactics were ones used successfully in other states. Their campaign materials were printed in advance and their talking points were well rehearsed. Their main message was an impassioned plea to allow suffering, terminally ill people access to “medicine.” A beautiful young woman who had been a cancer patient was the official spokesperson. The media ate it up, giving plenty of free media time to the beautiful young cancer victim as a human-interest story (thus not a campaign message requiring equal time from our opposition).

Widespread recreational use! The true mission of the MPP was made blatantly obvious as soon as the campaign was over. Although the MPP promised Arizonans that the “tightly drafted” initiative would keep the marijuana program strictly “medical,” delighted proponents immediately began celebrating and supporting blatant recreational use and promotions, opening numerous marijuana “compassion clubs,” and even hosting “farmer’s markets” showcasing the “oh-so-medical” strains of marijuana like “Train Wreck” and “Purple Haze.” Compassion clubs, cooperative grow centers and indoor grow operations have sprung up all over Arizona, bringing increased crime and decreased property values to neighborhoods. Drug dealers simply can’t be regulated. Regardless of how well drafted the law, they will find a way to ignore the law, stretch the law, or challenge in court the parts of the law they don’t like in order to make as much money as possible selling their drugs. The phrase “camel’s nose under the tent” comes to mind.

Don’t be fooled by polls.

The polls predicted a rout in Arizona all the way to the end of the campaign, yet we lost by a mere two-tenths of one percent. We now understand that the conducting and releasing of disingenuous polls is another one of the national pro-drug lobby’s campaign tactics. Throughout our campaign, the nationally well-funded proponents released (or encouraged the media to conduct and release) poll after poll showing that we would lose by a landslide. The simple question — “Are you in favor of ‘medical’ marijuana?” – does not reveal the deeper (and more relevant) feelings concerning the widespread recreational use, as well as increased social and economic ills, caused by these laws. This dishonest “polling” tactic is going on all over the country. The “polls” simply do not accurately reflect the opinion of the majority on the real issues. A better gauge of public opinion is a review of the various expressions of buyers’ remorse.

Buyer’s remorse all over the country.

Arizonans were promised by the MPP that the “medical” marijuana program would not be like the ones in California and Colorado. We were told that the MPP had learned from other states and that our legislation was the best-written legislation in the country. We were told that our legislation would serve as the model for the rest of the country. Arizonans fell for it and now are paying for it. Literally.

We now know, as do others in marijuana-friendly states, that even the most ardent “medical” marijuana supporters do not want dispensaries in their neighborhoods. One of the many facts omitted by the MPP in their campaign was that in Colorado and California, for example, most counties and cities ban dispensaries! That is because dispensaries increase crime, decrease property values and adversely affect the quality of life in neighborhoods. People might support a concept, but rebel against the actual implementation when it affects them personally.

Voters everywhere, not just in Arizona, are suffering buyer’s remorse. No new “medical” marijuana laws have been passed by a legislature or by initiative since 2010 and, in fact, there has been a contraction since 2008. Recently, among other significant events, (1) the people of Montana, through a grassroots campaign created by four moms, led a repeal effort (which led to repeal by the legislature, but then vetoed by the Governor, followed by a recent court ruling that Montana’s law is unconstitutional) that is expected to be successful this year, (2) the people of South Dakota soundly rejected a “medical” marijuana initiative, (3) the people of Oregon soundly rejected a “medical” marijuana dispensary component for their existing program, (4) the people of California defeated a general legalization bill, despite being outspent by marijuana advocates $3.8 million to $300,000, (5) the people of Arizona very narrowly passed a “medical” marijuana initiative, despite the fact that opponents were outspent by advocates $800,000 to $25,000, (6) a repeal bill was introduced in the New Mexico legislature, resulting in a memorial bill requiring comprehensive studies over the next year, (7) due to widespread abuse by physicians and patients, a bill was introduced in the Hawaii Legislature to severely restrict the program, and (8) vehement objections by residents to dispensaries in D.C. and New Jersey have stopped implementation of the marijuana programs in those states.

“Medical” marijuana is under attack by the federal government.

State “medical” marijuana laws do absolutely nothing to change federal law. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), which makes it illegal to use, possess, cultivate or sell marijuana or to facilitate such activities. There is no exception for “medical” use of marijuana. (In fact, the FDA has found that marijuana has no accepted medical use.) Not only are users, dispensary owners, landlords, and financiers at risk of federal prosecution for participating in or facilitating participation in marijuana programs, the federal government has confirmed that state employees who facilitate the programs are not immune from prosecution.

After a period of lax enforcement spawning numerous state “medical” marijuana laws, the federal government recently stepped up its efforts to enforce the CSA. Just this past year, among other significant events, (1) acting on behalf of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), U.S. Attorneys in California, Hawaii, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Rhode Island, Arizona, Maine, and Delaware issued letters warning that individuals violating the CSA can be prosecuted, as well as those who “facilitate” violations of the CSA (state employees who issue licenses, permits or other approvals allowing use, cultivation or sale of marijuana are “facilitating” violations of the CSA and the U.S. Attorneys have said state employees have no immunity from federal prosecution); (2) the Drug Enforcement Administration is conducting raids on marijuana businesses in numerous states, seizing money and property; (3) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issued an open letter making it clear that marijuana cardholders may not purchase or own a firearm; (4) having been warned of the consequences of participating in “money laundering,” financial institutions all over the country refuse to accept accounts from dispensary owners; (5) the DOJ is threatening t.v., radio and print advertisers for allowing advertising of marijuana, which is illegal under the CSA; and (6) the U.S. Attorneys are making good on their threats, shutting down numerous dispensaries in multiple states by warning landlords of properties used for dispensaries that their property will be seized and they will be prosecuted if the marijuana business is not shut down.

As Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said, “no State can authorize violations of federal law . . . nor does clear and unambiguous compliance with state law or the absence of one or all of the above factors [demonstrating illegal drug trafficking activity] create a legal defense to a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” In his recent letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s legal counsel, Charles Oberly, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, stated:

Enterprises engaged in the cultivation, manufacture, and sale of marijuana directly violate federal law. Accordingly, individuals and organizations that participate in the unlawful cultivation and distribution of marijuana could be subject to civil and criminal remedies. Moreover, state employees who conduct activities mandated by the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act are not immune from liability under the CSA. The USAO will evaluate all potential civil and criminal enforcement actions on a case-by-case basis in light of the priorities of the Department of Justice and the USAO’s available resources.

Governor Markell suspended Delaware’s marijuana program upon receipt of Mr. Oberly’s letter. This exact same scenario was played out in the state of Washington recently.

Illegal activities by states and their employees are not covered by insurance.

Any facilitation by the state of Massachusetts, its agents or employees of illegal activities (use, cultivation and sale of marijuana) is risky from a liability standpoint. Facilitating violations of the Controlled Substances Act could have far-reaching, adverse economic consequences for Massachusetts in that insurance coverage is routinely denied for claims arising out of “illegal activities.” Legislators should consider the adverse economic consequences of uninsured money judgments against the state and/or its employees based on strict liability, vicarious liability and products liability claims by citizens injured or damaged by pot smokers or growers licensed by the state. Any consideration of “medical” marijuana legislation should include a discussion with insurance agents and lawyers.

There will be no tax revenues to offset economic harm to the state.

Any taxes collected by states or cities on the sales of marijuana (or income taxes on marijuana businesses) are subject to seizure by the federal government (because they are proceeds of illegal drug trafficking), so any “revenues” collected by states or cities are illusory at best. Even if Massachusetts could legally tax marijuana, any tax revenues collected would pale in comparison to the social and health costs related to its use. Federal and state alcohol taxes raise $14.5 billion yearly. This covers only about 6% of alcohol’s total cost to society.

“Medical” marijuana jeopardizes federal funding.

Congress has the power to pull federal funding from states that do not advance federal laws. By authorizing violations of the Controlled Substances Act, the state of Massachusetts could lose substantial federal funding.

Legal and economic consequences of legislation should be considered BEFORE it is passed.

Given the potential legal and economic consequences to the state of Massachusetts, as well as its agencies, citizens, agents and employees, any “medical” marijuana legislation should not be undertaken without an opinion from the state’s Attorney General as to those consequences. Reasonable and prudent questions to be asked of your Attorney General include:

(1) Will Massachusetts citizens who use, possess, cultivate or distribute marijuana, or facilitate such use, possession, cultivation or distribution, including Department of Health (“Department”) and other State employees or agents, acting in accordance with the provisions of the Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act, be violating the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C.A. § 801 et seq., and, if so, will such citizens, including State employees and agents, be immune from federal prosecution?

(2) In the event money damages are assessed against the state, its agents or employees, under strict liability, vicarious liability, products liability or other claims, will those damages be covered by state risk liability insurance, E & O, D & O or EPLI, as appropriate?

(3) Will the state of Massachusetts jeopardize federal funding as a result of authorizing violations of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C.A. § 801 et seq.?

Passing a “medical” marijuana law will place Massachusetts residents in an unavoidable fray.

Despite boasts of having “16 states plus D.C.” with “medical” marijuana programs, NORML admits that no state has a fully functional program. In fact, three of those programs (Delaware, New Jersey and D.C.) are “in name only,” with no patients or dispensaries. Four states (Alaska, Maine, Nevada and Vermont) are “dysfunctional,” according to NORML, which means “less than 1,000 users qualify.” Due to a combination of buyer’s remorse and federal enforcement action, existing state “medical” marijuana laws are under concerted attack.

Even if Massachusetts legislators have the most noble of intentions, it would be irresponsible to pass a law that requires state employees or others to violate federal law. Not only would you place state employees (and all residents of Massachusetts, including landlords, financiers and others unwittingly drawn into this debacle, as well as those salivating at the state-sanctioned opportunity to use, grow and sell marijuana) in the untenable position of violating federal law, you would be wasting the valuable time and resources of all residents of Massachusetts in continuing down this dead end path.

The federal government, through a concerted, united effort by the Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, is actively engaged in shutting down the marijuana industry proliferating under the guise of state “medical” marijuana laws by whatever means necessary. Massachusetts residents deserve to stay out of the crossfire between federal law enforcement and drug traffickers, and state employees deserve not to be used as guinea pigs in testing the federal government’s mettle.

Thank you for your attention. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


Keep AZ Drug Free