Prosecutors in Arizona are asking a court to rule that the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law is illegal because it is preempted by federal law.
The requests by Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery target dispensary provisions of Arizona’s 2010 medical marijuana law, but if they were able to get a court ruling that said the law conflicts with federal law, it would have a much greater impact.
According to Horne, “Possession, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana are all forbidden by federal law, and state authorization of these activities is preempted.”
The initial case has to do with a potential collective, White Mountain Health Center, which is suing Maricopa county because the county would not provide the required zoning clearances for the collective to operate. The zoning clearances were not provided because county officials had been advised by County Attorney Montgomery that allowing medical marijuana collectives to operate would constitute as aiding and abetting drug crimes.
Judge Michael Gordon recently ruled that state officials could not decline to award WMHC a dispensary license because of the county’s inaction.
In response to that ruling, Horne and Montgomery are attempting to get the lawsuit dismissed based on the grounds that Arizona’s medical marijuana law is not legal in the first place. The prosecutors could launch a more small-scale effort against the collective, but instead they are using this case as an excuse to go after the state’s entire medical marijuana system.
WMHC’s attorneys argue that prior court rulings have found that federal law should not preempt state law when dealing with the matter of medical marijuana. In January, a judge refused to rule whether Arizona’s medical marijuana law is preempted because state officials hadn’t established a genuine threat of prosecution of state employees for administering the law.
Earlier this year, state officials were also ordered to continue licensing medical marijuana dispensaries and allow them to begin operation. Patients are registered and caregivers are permitted to grow, but the matter of medical marijuana dispensaries has held up the entire system in Arizona.