Marijuana Dispensaries Are On Hold Pending Outcome Of Federal Lawsuit

Arizonans who plan to submit an application to operate a medical marijuana dispensary will have to wait indefinitely, as the program is on hold pending a decision by a federal court judge.  On May 24, Governor Jan Brewer directed Attorney General Tom Horne to file a lawsuit asking a federal judge to weigh in on the legality of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). Her concerns stem from a letter received earlier this month from U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis K. Burke stating that growing, distributing and possessing marijuana 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.  Brewer is requesting a declaratory judgment from the court that state employees and citizens will not be subjected to federal prosecution as long as they abide by state statutes regarding the growing, distribution and consumption of medical marijuana.  “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,” stated the governor.

Although the letter from Burke does not mention that state employees will be targeted for federal prosecution, Brewer has concerns that it may present an uncertainty for state law enforcement. The governor believes that the 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, as well as the employment status of DPS employees who could be in violation of federal law while participating as consumers in the AMMA.  The Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana policy reform organization based in Washington, D.C., accuses Brewer of not defending a law that was passed by a majority of the voters, and of trying to disrupt an orderly system and replace it with relative chaos.  “We are deeply frustrated by this announcement. The law Governor Brewer wants enjoined established an extremely well thought-out and conservative medical marijuana system,” stated Rob Kampia, executive director of the organization.  Brewer maintains that the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has been diligent in implementing the voter approved AMMA provisions until the receipt of this letter.

“The State of Arizona has worked to follow the wishes of voters, stated Brewer. “But I won’t stand aside while state employees and average Arizonans acting in good faith are unwittingly put at risk.”  On a local level, Holbrook City Manager Ray Alley stated that he has minimal concerns regarding the potential loss of federal grant funds by allowing a dispensary within city limits.  “I’ve written two or three letters for people who are interested in opening a dispensary stating that their site is zoned properly. I don’t in any way indicate support or lack of support for their endeavor. It’s simply a statement stating they’ve met zoning requirements for their site,” stated Alley.  The letter is required as part of the application process to open a dispensary, but the process also requires applicants to provide proof of $150,000 in liquid assets and a $5,000 application fee, with the applicants losing $1,000 of that fee if their application is not approved. Those factors and the stringent rules that apply to dispensary operations, in addition to concerns of federal prosecution. could limit the pool of applications received by ADHS.  ADHS was scheduled to begin accepting dispensary applications on June 1, but with this recent turn of events, the application process has been placed on hold until Brewer receives confirmation that state employees and Arizona citizens will not be open to federal prosecution for following state law.

via  :  AzJournal

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