Arizona to sue to clarify medical marijuana act

PHOENIX Tue May 24, 2011 9:38pm EDT

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona will file a lawsuit in federal court to learn whether a controversial medical marijuana law passed by voters last November is legal, Arizona's governor said on Tuesday.

Republican Governor Jan Brewer said the state will file the court action by Friday to make sure that Arizona does not put state workers and consumers in jeopardy as it implements its voter-sanctioned Medical Marijuana Act.

The decision to seek clarification comes after the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, warned in a letter to state health officials earlier this month that the cultivation, sale and distribution of marijuana is still against federal law and subject to prosecution.

In it, Burke said he 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."

Brewer said she wants to follow voter's wishes, but remains concerned.

"I won't stand aside while state employees and average Arizonans acting in good faith are unwittingly put at risk," she said in a prepared statement released Tuesday.

"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," she added.

Arizona became the 15th state in the nation to approve medical marijuana. Last November, voters gave the go-ahead to a ballot measure by a razor-thin margin.

The state has been accepting applications from individuals seeking to used marijuana for medical purposes since April.

Figures show that 3,696 people have been given cards to use marijuana for a range of medical problems, with the bulk of the users approved because of chronic pain.

The legal action also comes as the state readied to accept applications statewide on June 1 for those seeking to dispense the drug under the new law. There will be 125 dispensaries allowed under Arizona Department of Health Service rules.

Officials have said the dispensaries would start operating in late September or early October. But a governor's aide told Reuters that Brewer wants to put the dispensary part of the law on hold pending a decision on the legal case.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Jerry Norton)

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Comments (11)
atunionbob wrote:
Why are politicians and lawyers trying to act like Medical professionals? I do not recall any law making a Juris-Doctorate a Medical Doctor. Nor is there any law that makes a Governor a Medical Doctor ether. When the politicians start practicing medical exams, then we end up with big big problems. The people in their wisdom know that and have voted as such allowing Dr’s to prescribe Marijuana to those who need it. Yet The Federal Government idiots and other politicians seem to feel they know better. Bull hockey.

May 24, 2011 10:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Donesk wrote:
I think she’s actually more concerned with the judicial conflict between prolific state legislation permitting medical cannabis use and federal law banning it altogether.

And I think a federal statement on the matter is going to help the legalization movement either way.

May 24, 2011 11:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dbeall wrote:
The states need to step up to the Constitutional plate and pitch the ball at the Federal Government.

Which by the way,, is completely out-of-order and acting illegally and in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States of America..

have the book-smart, reality-stupid US so-called-Attorneys ever read the dam thing, I doubt it.

May 25, 2011 6:48am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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