White Mountain Health Center, a medical marijuana collective that hopes to open in Maricopa County, Arizona, has filed a lawsuit against the county for allegedly purposely stalling action on their application.
The lawsuit alleges that the county refuses to certify or reject WMHC’s application, leaving them in limbo. The dispensary hopes to open in Sun City, an unincorporated part of the county.
Collectives hoping to open in unincorporated parts of Maricopa County must receive special zoning approval. However, last year the county determined that they would not accept, process, or issue permits for any medical marijuana businesses on unincorporated land until marijuana is legalized on the federal level.
This decision conflicts with Arizona’s medical marijuana law, which was approved in November 2010. The law allows local jurisdictions to impose “reasonable” zoning restrictions for dispensaries.
The county Board of Supervisors was advised by the County Attorney Bill Montgomery to not participate in the medical marijuana program because it could put county employees at risk of facing negative attention for violating federal law.
According to Montgomery, the county has avoided issuing permits to collectives in order to avoid “having to argue the fine details of whether even a denial” of a permit application would be considered to be a violation of federal law.
Montgomery continued, explaining, “You can’t enforce the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. I don’t care if it passed with 90 percent of the vote. Voters are no more entitled to pass something that’s unconstitutional than the Legislature, and that’s just a legal fact. If it’s against the law, you can’t enforce it. The medical-marijuana act is not even protected by the Voter Protection Act because it can’t protect something that’s unlawful.”
Maricopa County is the only County in Arizona to disallow medical marijuana collectives in this manner. White Mountain Health Center is the only applicant for a collective in Sun City. According to the health center’s attorney, Jeffrey Kaufman, “There are a lot of people in Sun City with serious medical conditions that we believe would benefit from medical marijuana. The voters in the state have approved medical marijuana, and I think it would be very unfair for the people of Sun City to travel outside of Sun City to go and get medical marijuana.”