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Brewer Attempts to Thwart Medical Marijuana Law

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If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

That appears to be Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's mantra in her efforts to suppress voter-approved Proposition 203 — otherwise known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Brewer, who openly campaigned against passage of the act, announced Tuesday that she directed Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to file suit by the end of the week to seek a declaratory judgment from a federal court regarding the legality of Arizona's new medical marijuana law.

This is not the first time the state's lawmakers went against the will of the people regarding medical marijuana. In 1996, voters passed Arizona's first medical marijuana measure — Proposition 200 — by a 2-1 vote, but the State Legislature was able to stop it from being implemented. Two years later, the Voter Protection Act was passed, and that prohibits state legislators from changing a voter-approved initiative without a three-quarter supermajority.

In her press release, Brewer said she is ordering the lawsuit to protect state employees who are charged with issuing medical marijuana patient cards and dispensary licenses and questions the Arizona Department of Public Safety's ability to maintain federal grant monies due to the law. Brewer cites a letter from United States Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble on May 2 as the reasoning she is seeking clarification from a federal court.

In his letter, Burke reminds Humble that marijuana is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug, according to the Controlled Substances Act, and that "growing, distributing and possessing cannabis in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws that purport to permit such activities."

Burke went on to reiterate a statement made in October 2009 from then Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that provided guidance to United States attorney's offices to not "focus their limited resources on those seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment" and said the USAO for the district of Arizona will continue to follow that guidance. He warned, however, that even clear and unambiguous compliance with the AMMA does not render possession or distribution of marijuana lawful under federal statute.

"The state of Arizona has worked to follow the wishes of voters," Brewer said, "but I won't stand aside while state employees and average Arizonans acting in good faith are unwittingly put at risk. In light of the explicit warnings on this issue offered by Arizona's U.S. attorney, as well as many other federal prosecutors, clarity and judicial direction are in order."

In addition to potentially stopping Arizona's medical marijuana law, the suit could have further ramifications to the 14 other state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs throughout the country.

Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project that backed the AMMA, said Brewer has done a disservice to her state.

"We cannot think of a single individual — aside from possibly illegal drug dealers — who would benefit from Governor Brewer's actions today," Kampia said.

Proponents of the bill believed that under Prop. 203 current marijuana dealers, including those with links to drug cartels and terrorists, would lose customers to licensed dispensaries, which are required to sell cannabis grown in Arizona by state-monitored cultivators. Some analysts projected the gross revenue from state-legalized pot sales would surpass $1 billion each year. Spin-off jobs from the proposition could include work for real estate agents, attorneys, doctors, entrepreneurs and others.

The MPP sent out a press release after Brewer's that listed a similar suit filed in San Diego County in 2005 that failed to stop California's medical marijuana law.

"It's just a waste of taxpayer money," said Morgan Fox, a representative of the group. "We've seen lawsuits like this one before, and they've all failed."

Fox added that she believed Brewer's interpretation of Burke's letter was incorrect.

"The letters that these U.S. attorneys are sending out are only stating their opinion," Fox said. "In Delaware and Vermont, they implemented their medical marijuana laws despite (similar) letters . . . There's never been an instance of a state employee being prosecuted for implementing medical marijuana laws."

Humble announced in his blog that the AZDHS will continue to issue patient and caregiver medical marijuana cards until further information is available; however, the lawsuit raises questions about whether the AZDHS will continue on schedule to approve dispensary applications. As it is now without approved dispensaries, any patient may cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants because, by default, they live further than 25 miles from an operational dispensary.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: eacourier.com
Author: Jon Johnson
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Eastern Arizona Courier Newspaper
Website: Brewer attempts to thwart medical marijuana law
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