Arizona Judge Oks Medical Marijuana Law
An Arizona judge upheld a voter-approved law legalizing medical marijuana in the state on Tuesday, ruling it is not pre-empted by federal statutes outlawing the drug.
In his decision, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon pointed out that 18 states and the District of Columbia already have enacted laws permitting some form of legal marijuana use, and wasn’t about to make Arizona’s take on legislation invalid.
“This 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,” Judge Gordon wrote.
The case started after Maricopa County refused to approve zoning for the White Mountain Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary that tried to open in Sun City, on the basis that doing so would violate federal laws making marijuana illegal.
Judge Gordon acknowledged the Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug for which there is no legitimate medical use. However, Judge Gordon said, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act reflects “a very narrow but different policy choice” about the drug.
“The Arizona statute requires a physician to review a patient’s medical circumstances prior to authorization of its use,” he said. Those without a permit remain subject to arrest under state law.
Also, the Arizona law gives the state health department “full regulatory authority,” which has enacted rules to ensure that those dispensaries operate within the law.
With the Tuesday ruling, Maricopa County must provide White Mountain Health Center with the paperwork showing they are properly zoned. The dispensary will have to wait on opening, though, because the legal battle delayed their renting a storefront and another business took their spot.
Another dispensary, Southern Arizona Integrated Therapies, opened last weekend to pre-register patients, reports the Daily Chronic. It will begin dispensing marijuana on December 11.
“More than 30,000 people already have cards authorizing them to possess and use medical marijuana in Arizona,” reports the Mohave Daily News.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who brought the suit forward, said they would appeal.