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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Gov. Brewer Can’t Throw a Wrench|in Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Law

PHOENIX (CN) - A federal judge has derailed Gov. Jan Brewer's 11th hour challenge to Arizona's voter-approved medical marijuana law, finding no evidence that state employees could face federal prosecution for implementing the law.

Passed by Arizona voters in 2010, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act required the state to start accepting applications for nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries and dispensary agents on June 1, 2011. On May 27, however, Brewer and others asked a federal court to decide whether state law provided "safe harbor" from federal prosecution.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton tossed the case on Wednesday, giving Arizona 30 days to amend.

"The complaint does not detail any history of prosecution of state employees for participation in state medical marijuana licensing schemes," Bolton wrote. "The complaint fails to establish that plaintiffs are subject to a genuine threat of imminent prosecution and consequently, the complaint does not meet the constitutional requirements for ripeness."

Arizona had claimed that the government has threatened to enforce federal anti-drug laws against dispensaries in other states that have passed similar legislation. The complaint also cited a 2011 letter by former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke of the District of Arizona, which "stat[ed] that growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana violates federal law no matter what state law permits."

Such arguments failed to move Judge Bolton, however.

"The letter did not address potential criminal liability for state employees working to implement the AMMA," she wrote, adding that "plaintiffs have not shown that any action against state employees in this state is imminent or even threatened."

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