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Arizona Gov. Brewer seeks federal shutdown of state medical marijuana program

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator May 26, 2011

    Funny how when it’s immigration, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer claims states rights and opposes federal interference, but when it’s the state voting for medical marijuana, she invites federal interference.

    (East Valley Tribune) 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.

    [S]he 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.

    To be fair, this ability is not uncommon in politicians.

    Boo!  The scare letter tactic seems to be working.  Rhode Island balked, Washington balked, now Arizona.  Despite the fact that this medical marijuana has been federally illegal the whole time and New Mexico and Colorado have been licensing dispensaries for years with no federal interference

    “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.”

    Bull.  You opposed the initiative and you’re using the empty threat from a US Attorney to provide the cover for you to overturn what was only 50.13% of the people’s will.

    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.

    That’s some pretty clever language drafting there.  I have to give props to the folks at MPP who came up with that one.  If you don’t get a card 45 days after turning in your recommendation, that recommendation is your valid card. Either the state controls who is a legal medical marijuana patient or thousands of doctors will.  You’d think if the governor wanted to have some control over this, she wouldn’t try to stop issuing the cards.

    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.

    That’s a pretty rapid growth curve!  Remember, this initiative wasn’t even officially passed until December and the online-only registration system opened up just six weeks ago.

    [Brewer] 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.

    Now you’re really reaching, Governor.  You can’t name any one of the now 16 medical marijuana states over the past fourteen years that has lost a single federal grant for not locking up patients.

    As for the dispensary licenses?  Remember how much I complained about the “25-mile halo rule”?  This was a part of MPP’s language that said you could only grow your own medical marijuana if you lived more than 25 miles from a dispensary.  Well, if Brewer gets the answer we know she’ll get, which is “hell, yes, the feds could go after state employees”, and she directs the state to issue no dispensary licenses, that means all those current 4,000 patients can grow their own dozen cannabis plants.  That could be over 30,000 patients within a year growing over 400,000 cannabis plants all over Arizona.

    Again, you’d think if the governor wanted to have some control over this, she’d implement the law, issue dispensary licenses, and keep the vast majority of cultivation in licensed, inspected, secure locations.

    104 Responses to “Arizona Gov. Brewer seeks federal shutdown of state medical marijuana program”

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