Gov. Jan Brewer
Gov. Jan Brewer explains why she has directed Attorney General Tom Horne to ask a federal court to decide if Arizona can enforce its new medical marijuana law despite federal statutes making possession, sale and transportation of the drug illegal.

Saying she fears people could wind up in legal trouble, Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday ordered the state attorney general to get a federal court to rule whether Arizona can implement its medical marijuana law.

Brewer said it was always known there was a conflict between the law, which lets Arizonans with a doctor's recommendation get a state-issued card letting them purchase and use marijuana, and the federal statutes which make possession, sale and transportation a felony.

But she said a letter from Dennis Burke, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, to her state health chief appeared to be a warning that anyone involved -- from patients and dispensary operators to landlords and even state health officials -- could wind up being prosecuted by his office.

"I believe in the will of the people,'' Brewer said, even though she personally opposed the initiative. "Unfortunately, with this piece of legislation, there are some pretty serious consequences if we don't get them resolved,'' she continued. "And I, as governor, am not willing to put those people at risk.''

Despite that, the state will continue issuing "qualified patient'' cards to anyone who produces the required doctor's certification that they have a medical condition which can be treated with marijuana.

Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said the state really has no choice: The initiative approved in November says if the state does not accept applications, then anyone who has the doctor's recommendation is automatically considered to have been issued a card.

About 4,000 Arizonans already are certified under state law to be able to purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

But Benson said it remains unclear whether the state will start issuing licenses for dispensaries to sell the drug commercially while the lawsuit progresses. The first applications can be submitted this coming week.

The move drew fire from Ryan Hurley, an attorney who represents dispensary owners.

Hurley said he understands why the governor and Attorney General Tom Horne would want a federal judge to clarify whether Arizonans can be prosecuted under federal law even if they are following the state law.

But Hurley pointed out that Horne admitted he will not be asking the court to uphold the law or rule that it trumps federal statutes. Instead, the state is not taking a position.

He said Horne and Brewer should be defending the right of Arizonans to pass their own laws and decide what medicines should be available in the state.

Brewer sidestepped repeated questions of why the state is not mounting a vigorous defense of the law.

Horne said there are issues of states' rights involved.

But he said that, unlike the fight he is waging with the federal government over Arizona's immigration laws, there is a clear conflict between the goals of the state and federal statutes. That, he said, makes it inappropriate for him to demand that a federal judge rule that federal prosecutors cannot enforce federal laws in Arizona.

In his letter to Will Humble, the state health director, Burke said he intends to follow "guidance'' from superiors in Washington not to focus his limited resources on seriously ill patients who use marijuana as part of a doctor's treatment program.

"The public should understand, however, that even clear and unambiguous compliance with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act does not render possession or distribution of marijuana lawful under federal statute,'' Burke wrote.

Potentially more significant, Burke had special words of caution to those who are in the business of growing marijuana even if they have a cultivation license from the state. And he said even those on the periphery, including property owners, landlords and organizations that finance dispensaries, risk not just federal criminal prosecution but also having the assets seized.

"This compliance with Arizona laws and regulations does not provide a safe harbor, nor immunity from federal prosecution,'' Burke wrote.

The governor said that conflict needs to be resolved.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate,'' said Brewer, quoting from the movie "Cool Hand Luke.'' She said that leaves a bunch of questions unanswered beyond the basic one of whether the Arizona law is legal.

She wants to know whether state officials who issue dispensary licenses can be prosecuted because they are "facilitating'' the distribution of marijuana. And Brewer said she fears that the state Department of Public Safety could lose federal grants by refusing as a matter of policy to arrest those caught with the drug simply because they are complying with state law.

(12) comments

NumberOne1AZfan

You will never get Medical Marijuana in AZ as long as Brewer and Horne are in power.

Next election , send this wicked witch back to OZ

chuck123

This whole legalization issue is stupid!!!!!!!!!!! You can tell me how good it is for some people or that it is no worse than alcohol and I will not disagree but if I can smell it then my own rights to a clean smelling townhouse are being violated. I have had to deal with happy smoke from someone elses domain before and I really prefer not to and I should not have to. Nor should my healthy, drug free children and grandchildren have to put up with it when they visit. Just because this law passed and may possibly be implemented does not give a prescription holder the absolute right to infringe on my clean air. It's bad enough I have to constantly put up with leaf blowers.

MMAPA2009

It is important to recognize the will of the Arizona voters in passing the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) under proposition 203. The issue is that Arizonans could essentially be stripped of their choice in medicine while a declaratory judgement is considered. In the meantime, the state could very well privatize the registry program while the validity of state and federal law is debated; therefore ensuring patients have a choice in how they alleviate pain and suffering.

Fortunately for patients, caregivers can still provide medicine to their patients in AZ, but a medical marijuana center or dispensary model, ensures quality, safety, and regulation of this emerging industry which has been blessed by the voters in 16 states and counting!

Let's make this about the patient! Get involved today!

The Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America (MMAPA) works to ensure patients have access to affordable alternative treatment throughout the nation. We work with hospice patients, the indigent, and disabled veterans to ensure no patient is left behind when it comes to a choice in medicine.

Need assistance? Contact us at 855-MMAPA-4U or visit www.MMAPA.us for more information.

azloki

If this could be controlled and marketed by the liquor or tobacco industry it would be a done deal. But because they have no control over the production or distribution they make it illegal. But it is OK to go to any corner store or drive through liquor store and but booze. Just goes to show that the reason pot was made illegal in the first place was to arrest Mexicans and Blacks. If you don’t believe this do a little research on your own. Don’t take the word of our so called paid off elected officials. One more example of our rights being taked away by our Corrupt Government. TIME FOR A SWEEPING CHANGE OF ELECTED OFFICALS IN WASHINGTON AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT...

azconan

California isnt worried about federal law. This Governor isa the dumbest politician in the state. YOU MORONS who voted for her deserve this ditzy dumb a*& for a Governor. What has she ever done? Nothing. If sb1070 and her racist kronies didnt pass that she would have been gone. SHE IS AN IDIOT !

PeacefulCat

Why is the listed under the Drug War is it not he war on We the People?

PeacefulCat

Our Governor cherry picks which Federal laws she likes and wants to support. She ignores the will of the people. She wants fight them on immigration and ignore federal law.

LinMesa

Does anyone in this administration have sense enough to research federal laws before your governor signs laws written by our inept legislators or puts them on the ballot??

MICKEY

I have voted Republican for many many years.
I have liked some of the things that President Obama and his admin stration have done and was seriously thinking of voting for him. BUT, leave the medical marijuana issue to the STATES. All that money that is being diverted to go after seriously sick people- use it to go after CRIMINALS. I thought I might vote for the Prez in 12', but I doubt that now.

Please do the right thing about medical marijuana and allow the states to implement the program without Federal interference.
Kudos on Bin Laden

Duncan20903

Amazing how quick they forget "WE THE PEOPLE......." or forget that for the last year they've been telling the Feds to stay out of their lawbooks because they want to send the wetbacks home.

This is a dictionary picture example of the word hypocrisy.

Leon Ceniceros

Hey...if the Liberals...the Progressives...the Left-winger...the Femi-gnat-zies....the Transgenders...the Gays....the Lesbians...the Body Piercers...the Body Art people (tattoes)..the A.C.L.U....the Hispanic Rights...the Anti-Gun Rights...the Ecologists...the Socialists...the Unionists...and the Looney-Tuners.............CAN ALL GO TO THE SUPREME COURT..............SO CAN ...........WE THE PEOPLE.

wgauthority

Amazing how quick they forget "WE THE PEOPLE......."

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