Arizona Superior Court Judge: State-Licensed Dispensing Of Medical Cannabis Is Not Preempted By Federal Law

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 18, 2012

    A 2010 voter-approved Arizona state law authorizing “the local cultivation, sale, and use, of medical marijuana” is not preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, according to the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County.

    The ruling, issued earlier this month by Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon, allows for the establishment of state-licensed medicinal cannabis dispensaries within Arizona — the first of which opened its doors last week. State-licensed medical marijuana facilities now operate in several states, including Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Maine.

    A majority of Arizona voters approved the AMMA in 2010. Under the law, qualified patients may possess and, depending on where they reside, cultivate cannabis. The program also mandates the state to license citizens to form not-for-profit dispensaries to grow and dispense cannabis. AMMA requires that each of the state’s 126 Community Health Care Analysis Areas permit at least one dispensary operator. Maricopa County’s prosecutor sought to block the establishment of local dispensaries by claiming that AMMA was preempted by federal anti-drug laws.

    Writing for the Court in White Mountain Health Center, Inc. v. Maricopa County, Judge Gordon declared that nothing in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act circumvents federal law since Justice Department officials, if they wished to do so, could still continue to locally enforce the Controlled Substances Act. “No one can argue that the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA is impaired to the slightest degree [by Arizona’s medical marijuana law],” Gordon opined, adding that the new law “affirmatively provides a roadmap for federal enforcement of the CSA, if they so wished to” since the statute requires patients and proprietors to register their activities with the state.

    Judge Gordon further suggested that Arizona’s law did not conflict with the federal lawmakers’ intentions when they enacted the federal Controlled Substances Act. He declared, “Instead of frustrating the CSA’s purpose, it is sensible to argue that the AMMA furthers the CSA’s objectives in combating drug abuse and the illegitimate trafficking of controlled substances.”

    He concluded: “The Court rejects … arguments that the [law] violates public policy simply because marijuana use and possession violate federal law. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation permitting the use of marijuana in whole or in part. The Court will not rule that Arizona, having sided with the ever-growing minority of States, and having limited it to medical use, has violated public policy.”

    Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is appealing Judge Gordon’s ruling.

    Arizona regulations regarding patient access and dispensary operations is available from the Arizona Department of Health Services here.

    17 Responses to “Arizona Superior Court Judge: State-Licensed Dispensing Of Medical Cannabis Is Not Preempted By Federal Law”

    1. Ralphy says:

      How did the interagency task forces operate? coordinated at county state level with federal “expertise” injected at various points in the training/implementation process. So the more people we get in office at county state level, the more sanity is put into an otherwise completely insane and depraved social context.

    2. Kayholder says:

      Im embarrassed to say I vote usually vote for the rebulicans in this state because of other issues and unfortunately they are, way to often, completely naive when it comes to marijuana.

    3. Kayholder says:

      By enforcing this nonsense law we are only turning suffering cancer (and other illness) patients, as well as intelligent Arizonans that are smart enough to follow the laws into CRIMINALS. We’re taking our higher IQ-ed, college graduates that are independent, contributing members of society that smoke pot occassionally and destroying their future because of a plant/”drug” that literally does less harm than legal substances like alcohol and narcotic pain killers. Really, this makes me proud to be a Republican Arizona resident. (acknowledge my sarcasm please).

    4. Harry says:

      Please peruse US Patent 6630507 titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” which is assigned to The United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    5. pat says:

      if the sheriff Arizona ded what this one dose there wouldn’t be a problem. http://youtu.be/QiBcC8_goVg

    6. Derrick says:

      This is the point, Gov’t is nearly out of money, but they can simply print more paper and depreciate the value of the dollar so long as they justify the means for needing it. This also sounds like federalists becoming lazy. Give users a taste and require registrations and then go after the (legitimate) growers for hundreds of thousands based on federal prosecutions for operating a non profit dispensary? Uncle Sam’s catch 22’s are really getting old.

    7. Cat Cassie says:

      Az is such a police state. They will never give up even an inch of their power. I mean look at that sheriff they have. He breaks the law and still gets re elected time and again.

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