Blaming fear over the legality of Arizona's new medical marijuana law, Governor Jan Brewer has defied the will of the voters and has asked Attorney General Tom Horne to file suit against it according to Dylan Smith of the Tuscon Sentinel.
The two said court action is needed to determine if the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act violates federal law. According to Brewer, the state will seek a declaratory judgment regarding the measure. "Arizonans deserve clarity on an issue with such dire legal implications," stated Brewer.
A federal judge could rule that Arizona’s new law is illegal, despite the U.S. Justice Department’s current stance that it will not pursue state-law-abiding participants of medical marijuana programs throughout the U.S.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has been preparing for the voter-approved act to come in to effect, but came under threat from U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who said that those who grow, distribute or possess marijuana in any capacity will be "vigorously prosecuted".
Burke also warned the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who is reliant on federal grants for funding. According to Burke, those funds could be pulled if officers who are consuming marijuana per the act because they would be in violation of federal law.
Arizonans began applying for medical marijuana cards in April, after the Health Department finalized the rules that patients, pot shops and caregivers need to follow in order to consume and distribute medical marijuana. Brewer said she is “moving toward” stopping the Arizona Department of Health Services from issuing any more medical marijuana patient certifications, and halting the program altogether, but was not clear on the details.
Through his blog, Arizona Health Department director Will Humble posted immediately after the press conference that until there is a definitive order to halt the program, which could come in the form of an executive order from Brewer, or from a decision by a federal judge, his agency will continue to issue qualifying patient certifications.
The legality of medical marijuana in Arizona has been called into question as of late and Brewer said she fears for the vulnerability of state employees who are assigned to implement the act across the state.
The Arizona Health Department is also scheduled to begin accepting applications for medical marijuana dispensaries on June 1.