Arizona judge clears way for marijuana dispensaries

[JURIST] An Arizona judge ruled [text, PDF] Monday that Arizona's medical marijuana law is constitutional and instructed the state to permit dispensaries to open. Judge Michael Gordon of the Maricopa County Superior Court [official website] rebuffed arguments from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne [official website] that federal laws barring the use of marijuana preempted the state law allowing medicinal marijuana which was passed by referendum [JURIST report] in 2010. The case was brought by the White Mountain Health Center which had been denied zoning permission by Maricopa County officials who claimed that federal prohibition on marijuana prevented state employees from issuing licenses to dispensaries as they would be enabling the commission of federal crimes. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website], which had joined the plaintiffs in this case, welcomed the news [press release] claiming "the regulation of drugs and medicine is traditionally a power exercised by the states, and the Constitution allows Arizona and the federal government to make different policy choices in these arenas." The decision gave the state 10 days to comply with the order and begin issuing licenses to qualified dispensaries.

Marijuana [JURIST news archive] was a hot-button issue in several states in the November 6 election [JURIST report]. In Washington voters approved an initiative [Initiative 502, PDF] to allow the possession and distribution of marijuana through a state-licensing system of marijuana growers, processors and stores, where adults can buy up to an ounce. The Colorado initiative [Amendment 64, PDF] actually introduces an amendment to the state constitution, allowing adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce and to privately grow up to six plants, although public use will be banned. In Oregon the Cannabis Tax Act Initiative [Measure 80, PDF] failed by approximately 55-to-45 percent [Examiner.com report] of the vote. Medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts for the first time as over 60 percent of voters approved Question 3 [Petition 11-11, PDF], an indirect initiated statute that will allow marijuana use by patients [Harvard Crimson report] with "debilitating medical conditions" and create 35 medical marijuana dispensaries. Conversely, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act [Issue 5, PDF] was rejected by voters [AP report] in that state by approximately a 52-to-48 percent margin. The measure would have allowed doctors to issue a certificate to anyone with a "qualifying medical condition" to grow, process and use marijuana. Also on the ballot in Montana is a veto referendum regarding a 2011 revision [SB 423] of a 2004 law that established medical marijuana use in the state.

 

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