Ariz. Governor Challenging Voter-Enacted Medical Marijuana Law

May 25, 2011

Arizona, ballot initiative, Brewer, Karen O'Keefe, lawsuit, Marijuana Policy Project, Medical Marijuana, Prop 203

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.