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Arizona: judge rules for licensed dispensaries

Posted on December 23rd, 2012 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

cannabisArizona's 2010 voter-approved 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 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 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act 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 federal law preempted the state's law. Writing for the Court in White Mountain Health Center, Inc. v. Maricopa County, Judge Gordon declared that nothing in the AMMA circumvents federal law since Justice Department officials 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 the AMMA, Gordon wrote.

Judge Gordon further suggested that Arizona's law did not conflict with the federal lawmakers' intentions when they enacted the federal Controlled Substances Act: "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. (NORML, Dec. 20)

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