Arizona: Governor Finally Agrees To Fully Implement State’s 2010 Voter-Approved Medical Cannabis Law

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 13, 2012

    Nearly 14 months after Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is finally directing the Arizona Department of Health Services to move forward to fully implementation the law.

    A brief history: In November 2010 Arizona voters narrowly decided in favor of ballot measure 203, which removes state-level criminal penalties for the use and possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by patients who have written certification from their physician indicating that cannabis may alleviate their condition. The measure also mandated the state to adopt rules to govern the establishment of up to 125 nonprofit cannabis dispensaries, which would be legally authorized to produce and dispense marijuana to authorized patients on a not-for-profit basis.

    In April 2011, the Arizona Department of Health Services formalized rules regarding an online ID-card registration for qualified patients. (More than 16,000 Arizona residents are now registered with the state to legally possess cannabis.) The Department also announced at that time that it would begin accepting applications from would-be dispensary operators by June 1. That deadline came and went, however, when Gov. Brewer — who had opposed the passage of AMMA — filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that her administration’s compliance with the law’s state-licensing provisions would put state employees in danger of federal prosecution. In response to Gov. Brewer’s suit, attorneys representing the American Civil Liberties Union and the NORML Legal Committee co-authored a Motion to Dismiss the case.

    Their efforts were successful. Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected Gov. Brewer’ challenge, asserting “[T]he Complaint does not detail any history of prosecution of state employees for participation in state medical marijuana licensing schemes. [and] fails to establish that Plaintiffs are subject to a genuine threat of imminent prosecution and consequently, the Complaint does not meet the constitutional requirements for ripeness. Therefore, Plaintiffs’ claims are unripe and must be dismissed.”

    So, has Gov. Brewer finally gotten the message? Apparently so.

    Today, Brewer’s office stated for the record that they would no longer challenge the state’s nascent law in court and instead will cooperate to see that the voters’ demands are once and for all fully enacted. Said the Governor in a press release:

    “The State of Arizona will not re-file in federal court a lawsuit that sought clarification that State employees would not be subject to federal criminal prosecution simply for implementing the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Instead, I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a (separate) pending legal challenge to the Department’s medical marijuana rules is resolved. … With our request for clarification rebuffed on procedural grounds by the federal court, I believe the best course of action now is to complete the implementation of Proposition 203 in accordance with the law.”

    According to the website of the Arizona Department of Health, the department hopes to begin accepting applications for dispensaries this summer. To date, only three states — Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico — have granted licenses to allow for the state-sanctioned production and distribution of cannabis. (Several other states, including Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont, have enacted licensing legislation but to date have refused to issue any actual dispensary licenses.)

    Under Arizona law, qualified patients may cultivate their own cannabis at home if they do not reside within 25 miles of an operating cannabis dispensary.

    Additional information regarding Arizona’s medicinal cannabis program is available from the Arizona Department of Health Services here.

    38 Responses to “Arizona: Governor Finally Agrees To Fully Implement State’s 2010 Voter-Approved Medical Cannabis Law”

    1. mike neill says:

      The only way to win is to keep writing and replacing the elected officials that blow you off and have their own agenda. Get involved! They will never “GIVE” you your rights; You have to fight for them. Get political and change the world that you live in!

    2. Mike88 says:

      We could really use some marijuana advocates in Illinois.

    3. […] post was an original from Norml.org and can be found here. This entry was posted in News by Dr. Giggles. Bookmark the […]

    4. If you live in Connecticut and want to end marijuana prohibition in our state, please take a minute to visit http://www.ctprimaryproject.com.

      Please pass this on to anyone you know who live in Connecticut!

    5. Owen says:

      Newt Gingrich just won South carolina primary. That means Romney is toas. He was 3-0, now he’s 1-2. Ron Paul is stalking the leaders like a classic race horse and will wear these 2 clowns down and beat them at the wire. The it will be on to debating Obama on drug laws.

    6. bongbong says:

      i don’t think anyone should apply to open a dispensaries in az.
      They don’t want the money any ways, we can now take care of our own thx u

    7. […] AZ–(ENEWSPF)–January 20, 2012. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday directed state officials to move forward with plans to implement sections of an approved 2010 voter […]

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