By Phillip Smith
Gov. Jan Brewer (R) decided Wednesday to ask a federal judge to throw out a central component of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law. The decision came just two days after a federal judge threatened to dismiss Brewer's lawsuit seeking clarity about medical marijuana regulations if the state did not take a position on whether it can implement the law despite federal statute or whether federal law preempts it.
Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson told Capitol Media Services that Brewer is now taking the position that federal law preempts a provision in the law that requires the state to regulate and permit more than 100 medical marijuana dispensaries. The state will ask US District Court Judge Susan Bolton to rule that Arizona cannot process dispensary applications.
"She does support the will of the voters," Benson said, even though she opposed last year's successful initiative. "But she also has to look out for the well-being of her state employees. No state employee should be put in a position where they could face federal prosecution simply for doing their jobs."
Joe Yuhas, spokesman for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, which led last year's campaign, slammed the governor's decision. "That's unfortunate," he told Capitol Media Services. "I also think it's somewhat ironic that a state government that seems to continuously question federal preemption, whether it's health care or immigration, now runs behind that shield in an effort to thwart the will of the voters."
He added that the whole federal lawsuit seeking clarification is a waste of time and money. While Arizona's law, like those in other medical marijuana states, differs with the Controlled Substances Act in allowing medical marijuana use and distribution under state law, no state or local official anywhere has been prosecuted for undertaking actions to regulate medical marijuana in states where it is legal, he noted.
The Arizona law lets persons with specified medical conditions obtain and possess up to 2 Â½ ounces of marijuana per week. Some 16,000 people have registered to do so. Brewer is not seeking to invalidate that part of the law.
The law as approved by voters only allowed patients or caregivers to grow their own if they were located more than 25 miles from a dispensary. But if Arizona ends up with no dispensaries, any patient could grow his own.