AZ MMJ Update: Gov Brewer files lawsuit endangering MMJ *NATIONWIDE*, asks Federal Judge for Declaratory Judgement on MMJ
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Firstly, I voted for Brewer, yes, recovering Dem that I am, I voted to enforce the border and supported her for supporting SB1070.
The reasoning in SB1070 and the entire reason Gov Brewer is fighting an appeal to uphold SB1070, is that AZ has a right to protect its border as a sovereign state, while the Feds look the other way, up in the air, WHERE-EVER-THE-HELL they’re looking cuz it aint on the border where they claim it’s ‘SAFER THAN EVER!” while HUNDREDS of bodies dumped in mass graves are found a stone’s throw on the other side.
So to review, Gov. Brewer feels it is wrong for the Feds to stop our implementation of a state law that is supported by our citizens (although this was not voted on by the voters, it was passed in the legislature but all the polling shows the state supports it).
Okay, a Governor who supports Federalism and the rights of the state – great we all thought.
But wait! The voters of AZ in our last election passed,( for the THIRD TIME BTW), a Medical Marijuana Law, one that is very strict, very,very careful with what illnesses are covered and with very limited provisions for dispensaries, which in AZ will require an on-site board certified physician, who does NOT prescribe, to supervise the staff.
In addition, the dispensary selection process has been controversial as being too tough. It requires people to have been AZ residents for 3 years, and they need to have $150k on deposit to be looked at ‘favorably’ when dispensaries are selected, beginning in June.
The law was signed and went into effect on April 14th, and patients have been getting registered by the AZ Department of Health since then.
Every week, the AZ DOH publishes a spreadsheet showing how many patients were approved, what the illness is, and gives a demographic and geographic breakdown of the applicants. I mention this b/c the AZ DOH has been quite pleased with the applicants so far.
So far, it looks like a good MMJ program, with a good spread of ages, illnesses and gender (interestingly, women are apparently low users of MMJ thus far in the 16 states where it is legal).
So we have over 3,000 licensed patients so far, each of whom has spent minimum $300.00 to get certified, $150 to an MMJ doctor, and $150 to the AZ DOH.
Every patient who requested it was given an authorization to cultivate as there are presently no dispensaries open. Each patient gets to grow 12 plants until a dispensary opens in their CHAA (Community Health Area). So we can guesstimate that folks who were certified patients have plopped down additional monies to grow in an enclosed area, etc etc.
People who hope to open a dispensary have been working for over a year now, getting a location, getting zoning okayed by the local government, getting the cash liquid they need to have to apply and be a preferred applicant, etc etc etc. Mondo fees paid IOW.
So as we are now 4 days from the AZ DOH accepting the dispensary applications here comes Gov. Brewer and A.G. Horne with a last minute, IMO ill-considered lawsuit seeking to force a Federal Judge to throw out our MMJ law as being in conflict with Federal law on Marijuana.
WTH happened to supporting states rights? This is something THE VOTERS put into effect and Gov. Brewer’s suit may stop not only AZ MMJ but MMJ NATIONWIDE.
Brewer has stated she plans to have the AZ DOH HALT IMPLEMENTATION IMMEDIATELY, but she gives absolutely no legal basis for how she plans to do this. AZ DOH states they will continue to take $ and register patients until further notice:
ALERT: We understand the Governor and the Attorney General are seeking a declaratory judgment in federal court regarding the implementation of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. When further information is available, ADHS will provide updates. Until then, the Department will continue to issue Qualifying Patient and Designated Caregiver ID cards on our website.
The letter Brewer claims to be ‘clarifying’ is the local DOJ guy saying, ‘Hey AZ, we see you and if you get too much $$ with your MMJ dispensaries, well we might come confiscate it all’. But that is what THEY ALWAYS DO. That is the current state of play in MMJ. The AZ DOH Director summarized it as follows:
…The bottom line take-home message in today’s letter is that federal enforcement priorities in Arizona will continue to focus on folks that manufacture, distribute, possess and market marijuana despite the passage of the AZ Medical Marijuana Act– and that folks that operate large cultivation facilities or dispensaries (including property owners, landlords, and financiers) will be at risk for federal prosecution and asset forfeiture even if they’re in compliance with Arizona law and the rules that we published a couple of weeks ago….
It is the usual CYA letter they send when a state implements MMJ. Nowhere does it threaten patients, or state employees who are implementing the law. That is IMO a pathetic excuse by Brewer to stop a law she apparently does not like.
Newsflash~ the voters have spoken. Over and over and over again.
Crying ‘STATES RIGHTS!!’ on SB1070 and then running to a Federal Judge to shut down a voter implemented state MMJ law is hypocracy that will hurt the MMJ patients, possible not just in AZ, but nationwide.
Brewer’s press release (.PDF)
Governor Brewer, Attorney General Horne Announce Suit Regarding
Arizona Medical Marijuana Act
Court Action Needed to Determine Whether AMMA Violates Federal Law
PHOENIX – Governor Jan Brewer today announced that she has directed Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to file suit by the end of the week seeking a declaratory judgment from a federal court regarding the legality of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).
“For the state employees charged with administering the medical marijuana program or the Arizonans who intend to participate as consumers, it’s important that we receive court guidance as to whether they are at risk for federal prosecution,” said Governor Brewer. “As explained in a recent letter from the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, the federal government considers marijuana a controlled substance. Arizonans deserve clarity on an issue with such dire legal implications.”
The Arizona Department of Health Services had been diligently implementing voter-approved AMMA provisions until it received a letter, dated May 2, 2011, from U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke. Burke’s letter warned that marijuana remains a Schedule I Controlled Substance, meaning that “growing, distributing and possessing marijuana, in any capacity, other than as a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws that purport to permit such activities.” Burke declared that his office would “vigorously prosecute individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing, distribution and marketing activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”
The U.S. Attorney’s letter raises significant questions about the legality of both the AMMA and related Arizona Administrative Code provisions. In particular, Governor Brewer is concerned for the vulnerability of state employees charged with administering the AMMA, including, but not limited to, the issuance of dispensary licenses and qualified-patient registration cards. If a federal prosecutor were to decide that such activities are contrary to federal law, state employees may be subject to federal prosecution.
Medical marijuana also presents uncertainty for state law enforcement. The U.S. Attorney’s letter calls into question the ability of the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) to maintain federal grant monies, the department’s enforcement activities and federal task force actions, and the employment status of DPS employees who could be in violation of federal law while participating as consumers in the AMMA.
For these reasons and others, a declaratory judgment action regarding medical marijuana in Arizona is necessary to determine whether AMMA violates federal law and, therefore, is void.
“The State of Arizona has worked to follow the wishes of voters,” said Governor Brewer. “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.”