A federal judge on Wednesday granted an American Civil Liberties Union request to throw out a lawsuit filed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer seeking to strike down the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law that would allow sick patients to access important medicine.
Gov. Brewer, a notorious opponent of medical marijuana, argued in the May lawsuit that state officials fear federal prosecution for implementing the law — this in spite of the fact that Arizona’s former top federal prosecutor specifically said publicly that the federal government “has no intention of targeting or going after people who are implementing or who are in compliance with state law.”
Brewer and her legal counsel will study the dismissal of her lawsuit against the medical marijuana law — but keep a ban on dispensaries, according to a spokesman, reports Ray Stern at Phoenix New Times.
Brewer, with the help of state Attorney General Tom Horne (also, unfortunately, an anti-marijuana ideologue), filed the federal complaint back in May, claiming a letter by a former Arizona U.S. Attorney prompted the action.
Brewer and Horne had asked for a declaratory judgment on whether the voter-approved Medical Marijuana Act was legal, complaining that state workers could be prosecuted if they administer such a program because of pot’s illegal status under federal law.
Brewer and her Attorney General “have not shown that any action against state employees in this state is imminent or even threatened,” Judge Bolton wrote. Nor have Arizona officials shown that state workers have ever been prosecuted in any other medical marijuana state for medical marijuana licensing schemes.
Of course, this leaves Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee both looking like chumps, since both of them — quailing in the face of a chance to show actual leadership — refused to implement plans to license medical marijuana dispensaries in their states. Both Gregoire and Chafee, like Brewer, cited supposed fears of federal prosecution of state employees.
Stern at New Times pointed out the hypocrisy of Brewer’s position:
It was a thinly disguised attack on a state law that they didn’t like. It also exposed Brewer as a hypocrite on the issue of states’ rights. Her attack on medical marijuana took place even as she and Horne spent taxpayer dollars defending two state anti-illegal-immigrant laws that the federal government claims are unconstitutional.
At the same time Brewer filed the lawsuit, she also ordered the state Department of Health Services to reject all applications for medical marijuana dispensaries as authorized by voters.
But despite Judge Bolton’s ruling on Wednesday tossing out the lawsuit, “nothing has changed” regarding the governor’s position on dispensaries, said spokesman Matt Benson.
“It is unconscionable for Governor Brewer to continue to force very sick people to needlessly suffer by stripping them of the legal avenue through which to obtain their vital medicine,” said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project
“Today’s ruling underscores the need for state officials to stop playing politics and implement the law as approved by a majority of Arizona voters so that thousands of patients can access the medicine their doctors believe is most effective for them,” Edwards said.
“We are obviously pleased with Judge Bolton’s decision,” said the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association in a written statement. “Our hope is that our state leaders will stop wasting tax dollars with appeals and further litigation, and respect the will of Arizona voters who on three separate occasions have approved Medical Marijuana Initiatives at the ballot box.
“It’s time to implement the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in its entirety, and allow patients to secure their medicine in a safe, reliable, and regulated fashion, the AMMA’s statement reads. “Further delays simply allow 16,000 patients who have already secured the medical marijuana ID cards to grow their own marijuana, rather than obtain it from a regulated dispensary.”
It should be explained that under Arizona’s law, patients living more than 25 miles from an operating dispensary are allowed to grow their own cannabis. Currently — with no dispensaries open — every patient in the state is eligible to grow, under the law. Patients can grow up to 12 plants each, and caregivers can grow the same amount for up to five patients.
Arizona voters in 2010 passed Proposition 203, allowing seriously ill patients in the state to use marijuana as medicine with a doctor’s recommendation.
The law allows cannabis to be distributed by tightly regulated dispensaries to patients with state-issued registry cards and exempts from state prosecution not only seriously ill Arizonans but also their caregivers and a limited number of certified, nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries that will serve qualifying pat