A lawsuit challenging Arizona’s medical marijuana law was rejected last week, when Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon rejected arguments by Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and refused to declare the law invalid.
This is great news for patients, but wait, there’s more! Last week, the Phoenix FOX affiliate reported that a dispensary in Tucson became the first to open its doors in Arizona. However, that dispensary does not yet have medical marijuana available for patients, so the honor of being the first state-licensed dispensary actually goes to Arizona Organix in Glendale, which began supplying patients Thursday, December 6.
Prop. 203 has overcome several obstacles since it was approved by voters in 2010, and the law now appears to be well on its way to being fully implemented. However, advocates must remain vigilant, as we know the program’s opponents will continue trying to challenge the rights of patients in court and in the legislature. Montgomery has already announced he will appeal Judge Gordon’s ruling, so it’s clear the effort to preserve and protect Arizona’s medical marijuana law must continue.
Today, the Arizona Republic covered Gov. Jan Brewer’s outrageous, not-yet-filed lawsuit that calls the state’s voter-enacted medical marijuana law into question. Gov. Brewer alleged a major reason for the suit was fear that state employees could be in jeopardy. This claim was disingenuous given that Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke’s letter hadn’t mentioned state employees, and Brewer didn’t even bother to ask him if they would be at risk.
Apparently, reporter Mary K. Reinhart was more resourceful than Gov. Brewer. She spoke to U.S. Attorney Burke, who said "We have no intention of targeting or going after people who are implementing or who are in compliance with state law. But at the same time, they can't be under the impression that they have immunity, amnesty or safe haven." Burke also said they plan to focus drug enforcement on cartels and major trafficking, and that they have no intention to prosecute state employees.
This sounds like, in practice, the Arizona U.S. Attorney plans to abide by the 2009 Ogden memo that advises against targeting those in clear and unambiguous compliance with state laws, and by prior statements by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama.
In practice, as MPP has reminded lawmakers, the federal government has not been targeting those dispensaries that are state-registered, complying with state law, and operating in states with clear regulations and registration requirements. There have been no raids on dispensaries or licensed producers in New Mexico, Colorado, or Maine.
We hope this marks the beginning of the end of the scare tactics from U.S. Attorneys. We also believe that any alleged violation of state law should be up to state — not federal — law enforcement officials and/or courts to consider.
Join in the campaign to ensure the federal government does not interfere with state medical marijuana laws by asking your representative in Congress to support three bills in Congress that would provide legal protection to those complying with state law.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced yesterday that she is directing state Attorney General Tom Horne to go to federal court to question the validity of Arizona’s voter-enacted medical marijuana law. The suit will be filed this week. Brewer said the state attorney general will not defend the law.
Brewer initially indicated the state would be putting both patient ID cards and dispensary registrations on hold. Since then, her spokesperson announced they will continue issuing patient ID cards, after the administration apparently realized that the MPP-drafted law includes a safety valve so that a doctor’s certification and a notarized statement would function as an ID card if the state stopped issuing cards. The state was scheduled to begin accepting dispensary applications next week, but whether they will do so is now in question. If dispensary registrations are not granted, patients would have to cultivate for themselves, designate caregivers to do so, or turn to the criminal market.
“We are deeply frustrated by this announcement,” said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. “The law Governor Brewer wants enjoined established an extremely well thought-out and conservative medical marijuana system. The law was drafted so that a very limited number of non-profit dispensaries would serve the needs of patients who would be registered with the state. Governor Brewer is trying to disrupt this orderly system and replace it with relative chaos. We cannot think of a single individual -- aside from possibly illegal drug dealers -- who would benefit from Governor Brewer's actions. She has done a disservice to her state and its citizens."
Gov. Brewer's lawsuit is not the first time elected officials have sought to spend taxpayer money to try to overturn a state medical marijuana law. In 2005, San Diego County sought to enjoin most provisions of California's medical marijuana law. Ultimately, every court ruled against the county or refused to hear the case, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The only decision on whether the licensing of dispensaries would be federally preempted found that it would not be.
Perhaps Gov. Brewer is having a contest with San Diego County to see who can waste more of voters’ money in a futile challenge of the people’s will.
In Steve Fox's third appearance on Fox & Friends, he discusses the passage of Arizona's Proposition 203. At the end of this "fair and balanced" debate, Mr. Fox is cut off before he can respond to some extremely dubious statements. Read Mr. Fox's rebuttal after the video.
From Steve Fox:
The closing argument by Paul Charlton about MPP's disinterest in seeing marijuana go through the FDA approval process was both inaccurate and uninformed. Since 2002, MPP has engaged in a wide range of lobbying efforts in an attempt to pressure the DEA into granting a license to the University of Massachusetts to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research. Currently, anyone who wants to conduct research on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana must seek permission from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to acquire marijuana from the only federally-approved marijuana farm in the country at the University of Mississippi. But no corporation or organization would be able to use this marijuana for testing purposes and then bring the product to market, since they would not have control of the substance nor would they be able to prove that they could reproduce it.
A separate marijuana cultivation facility, which could effectively work with a private company or organization to develop and test a specific strain of marijuana, is needed in order to navigate the FDA process and bring a marijuana-based product to market. Yet the DEA has intentionally blocked the University of Massachusetts application for eight years, despite the fact that an administrative law judge within the DEA ruled in 2007 that granting the license would be "in the public interest."
If Mr. Charlton is truly interested in allowing science to determine whether marijuana is a medicine, he should join MPP in calling on the DEA to award the cultivation license to the University of Massachusetts. If he isn't willing to do that, he needs to find a new -- and accurate -- talking point.