Will the real Jan Brewer please stand up?
The governor has come far since she made her name globally by signing Arizona's divisive immigration law. Criticized at first for riding SB 1070's coattails into office for a full term as governor, she earned our respect for supporting the Proposition 100 temporary sales tax increase for education funding, and standing up to the more radical local elements of the Republican Party.
But she's also made a name for herself with partisan squawking and knee-jerk reactions to slights, both real and perceived, from Washington. Now it's getting out of hand - and it's getting old.
Brewer has ordered Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to seek a federal judge's ruling on the legality of the state's own medical marijuana law, which voters approved in November. She says it's because a memo from the federal prosecutor assigned to Arizona points out the drug's sale and use remains illegal under federal law, which she interprets to be a threat to the state employees charged with carrying out the law.
But U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke's letter never mentioned state workers, and in an interview with Capitol Media Services reporter Howard Fischer described the lawsuit and the press conference held by Brewer and Horne as political grandstanding.
"I believe in the will of the people,'' said Brewer, who personally opposed Proposition 203 in November. "Unfortunately, with this piece of legislation, there are some pretty serious consequences if we don't get them resolved. And I, as governor, am not willing to put those people at risk.''
Horne, for his part, said this is different from his fight with the feds over SB 1070 because the goals of the state and federal statutes are in clear conflict in this case, making it inappropriate for him to defend it as vigorously.
Even Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is involved, advising county leaders to halt the permitting process until the matter is cleared up.
All of this appears to be based on a distortion - mistaken or willful - of the risk of federal prosecution.
Call us cynical, but could the real issue here be that medical marijuana is simply less popular with the Republican officials' base than the immigration crackdown?
Prop. 203 was the third time Arizona residents have said at the ballot box that they want a legal way for the very ill to have access to medical marijuana. Perhaps one problem is the governor is looking at the matter as, in her own word, "legislation," rather than the initiative of voters to amend state law. Initiatives are one of the cornerstones of Arizona politics, a defining element of our independent Western nature that venerates public sovereignty. And the actions of Arizona lawmakers and governors have long displayed an utter disdain for this power of the people.
Medical marijuana is no panacea, and it's not without its problems - ask our neighbors in California and Colorado about that. But the people have spoken, and Brewer and Horne - who are so quick to hiss at Washington when they feel oppressed by the feds - should be defending the will of the voters of this state, while at the same time properly educating themselves on its ramifications. It's their job.
Our top state officials have gone from thumbing their noses at the federal government every chance they get to inexplicably thumbing their noses, instead, at us.