A federal judge on Jan. 4 granted an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) request to throw out a lawsuit filed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer seeking to strike down the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law. Filed in May, Brewer's suit argued that state officials could face federal prosecution for implementing the law—despite Arizona's then-US Attorney Dennis Burke stating publicly that the federal government has "no intention of targeting or going after people who are implementing or who are in compliance with state law." In throwing out the suit, US District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton said there is no genuine threat of imminent federal prosecution of state officials who carry out the law.
"It is unconscionable for Governor Brewer to continue to force very sick people to needlessly suffer by stripping them of the legal avenue through which to obtain their vital medicine," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project. "Today's ruling underscores the need for state officials to stop playing politics and implement the law as approved by a majority of Arizona voters so that thousands of patients can access the medicine their doctors believe is most effective for them."
Arizona voters in 2010 passed Proposition 203, which allows seriously ill patients in Arizona to use cannabis with a doctor's recommendation. The law allows cannabis to be distributed by closely regulated clinics to patients with state-issued registry cards. It exempts from state prosecution not only seriously ill Arizonans but also their caregivers and a limited number of certified, non-profit dispensaries that will serve qualifying patients. (ACLU press release, Jan. 4; AP, May 27, 2011)
Photo by Barbara Doduk