Fight continues against medical marijuana law
Even as the Arizona Health Department awarded licenses Tuesday for medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona — including three here in Yuma County — new legal roadblocks loomed.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced Monday he will seek a court ruling to get the dispensaries declared illegal since they cannot exist under federal drug laws. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is making a similar dispensaries challenge and may eventually go after individual medical marijuana users for breaking laws against illegal drugs.
Horne argued a state law cannot override a federal law. He is correct, unless that federal law is overturned, but it is an ironic argument since some state lawmakers and others have argued state authority can actually be superior to federal authority under our Constitution. The so-called state's rights claim has become a key argument on various issues in our state.
The supremacy of the federal government on the marijuana issue has also been argued by most of the state's county attorneys and sheriffs as well. They have asked the governor to intervene against the medical marijuana law provisions approved by voters in 2010, but so far Montgomery is the only one to actually take his own legal action.
Gov. Jan Brewer previously sought to have the courts rule on the legality of law, but the courts declined for the present. Brewer says that forces her to move forward with the law. But Horne and Montgomery apparently want to give the court route another try on their own.
It seems to us that at least some of this activity is simply an attempt to discourage operators and investors in the dispensaries from actually going forward with their plans due to a legal cloud hanging over them. Attorneys for some of the potential operators have called the legal challenges unfounded and just “politics.”
Even if the challenges are successful, however, Arizona's law allows authorized medical marijuana users to grow their own supply if there is no available dispensary. In our view, that uncontrolled option would be worse than the controlled method of distribution provided by state licensed and inspected dispensaries.
It would be useful to have a definite legal answer one way or the other from the courts, but so far that has not happened, even though about a dozen states already have laws allowing medical marijuana use.