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PHOENIX - Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies have been cracking down on fake medical marijuana dispensaries in the Valley.

The illegal dispensaries are known as compassion clubs, and sell marijuana without the required licensing through the Arizona State Department of Health Services.

Since March 3, MCSO deputies have made 39 arrests and seized lots of property in connection with the alleged illegal businesses.

"In the past week our sheriff's office narcotic detectives made about 39 arrests, half a ton of marijuana was seized," said Sheriff Joe Arpiao. "Over $230,000 in cash, a house...it actually had an ATM concealing some marijuana in it."

Arpiao said the compassion clubs have become popular in the state after the legalization of medical marijuana in Arizona in 2010. He added that usually compassion clubs only sell to club members, but undercover deputies were able to walk into the stores and purchase the marijuana.

In addition to the arrests and seizures of cash, weapons and drugs, Arpaio said they have seized one home and are searching two others, believed to be large grow houses that produce the marijuana.

"Right now we're searching three (houses), two in Laveen and we do know that there's large amounts of marijuana and other types of equipment in those residences," Arpaio said.

All the suspects arrested have been booked into jail and are facing various drug and money laundering charges.

Mark Remillard,

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