New federal lawsuit may set Arizona 2010 medical marijuana measure ablaze

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May 25, 2011


PHOENIX, Arizona: After a medical marijuana measure was placed on the Arizona ballot in 2010, voters chimed in and narrowly approved the proposal with a final vote of 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. The measure allows residents in the state with specific medical conditions to be treated with certain amounts of marijuana for personal use. The measure also allows qualified patients and caregivers to purchase the drug from specific, closely watched clinics.[1]

However, there may be complications on the horizon, as Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer announced that the state will file a lawsuit in federal court by May 27, 2011 in order to clarify whether or not the law is indeed legal. According to reports, the lawsuit is in response to U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, who claimed in a letter to state health officials that the cultivation, sale and distribution of marijuana is against federal law.

According to the letter, Burke stated that he would "vigorously prosecute individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing, distribution and marketing activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law."

Brewer said in a statement regarding the lawsuit that will be filed: "I won't stand aside while state employees and average Arizonans acting in good faith are unwittingly put at risk. In light of the explicit warnings on this issue offered by Arizona's U.S. Attorney, as well as many other federal prosecutors, clarity and judicial direction are in order."

The lawsuit comes at a time when potential dispensaries were set to start applying for certificates on June 1, 2011. On March 28, 2011, the Arizona Department of Health Services released rules on who can grow, distribute and consume the cannabis plant for medical use. The specifics of the rules governing the procedures surrounding medical marijuana can be found here.

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