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Arizona reviewing US memo on medical marijuana

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Arizona officials on Friday were reviewing a new federal memo on possible criminal prosecutions related to medical marijuana, as a lawyer for would-be dispensary operators said the memo doesn’t really change anything.

Saying the Department of Justice’s priorities hadn’t changed since it issued a similar memo in 2009, the new memo providing guidance to U.S. attorneys around the country.

Aides to Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne said their offices were reviewing the memo and had no immediate comment.

Like the previous memo, the new memo said users of marijuana for medical purposes and individuals who provide care to other individuals shouldn’t be prosecution priorities.

However, significant drug trafficking “remains a core priority” and commercial dispensaries and growers “and those who knowingly facilitate such activities” would still be violating federal drug laws regardless of state law, it said.

The memo did not explicitly address public employees administering medical marijuana programs.

Arizona officials have expressed concern that state employees could face legal jeopardy.

Ryan Hurley, an attorney for would-be dispensary operators, said the department’s stance is consistent both with the 2009 department memo and recent letters from U.S. attorneys.

Hurley said prospective dispensary operators remain at risk of federal prosecution. However, patients and individual caregivers apparently still won’t be prosecution targets, he said.

Arizona on May 27 filed a federal lawsuit against the Justice Department and other parties over the medical marijuana issue.

The state’s suit asked a judge to rule on whether Arizona can implement its medical marijuana law despite the apparent conflict with federal law.

On June 14, prospective dispensary operators filed two lawsuits challenging the state’s decision to not accept dispensary applications.

Those cases are pending and in their early stages.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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