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Arizona officials say medical pot questions remain

Arizona officials said a new federal memo they reviewed Friday on possible medical marijuana-related criminal prosecutions leaves unanswered questions as to whether state-licensed dispensaries and state employees who administer a fledgling medical marijuana program are at risk of prosecution.

Like a similar memo issued by the Justice Department in 2009, the new document 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.

Expressing disappointment and frustration, Attorney General Tom Horne said Friday that memo states there’s no shield from prosecution for those who “knowingly facilitate” marijuana commercial cultivation and distribution even if purportedly complying with state laws on medical marijuana.

“The federal government knew there was broad concern about whether ‘facilitate’ sale was a term that could endanger state employees,” Horne said.

That means Arizona will continue to press the lawsuit it filed May 27 against the federal government and other parties.

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.

While Gov. Jan Brewer and Horne expressed concern that state employees could face legal jeopardy, a League of Arizona Cities and Towns official said Friday he doesn’t see any impact on cities or their workers.

“Cities are not engaged in any level of commerce regarding marijuana,” said Ken Strobeck, the league’s executive director. “They are simply complying with state law regarding local zoning regulations should someone set up a dispensary in their city or town” under the state’s medical marijuana law and state regulations to implement it.

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.

On June 14, prospective dispensary operators filed two lawsuits challenging the state’s decision to not accept dispensary applications. One of those cases has been dismissed by an appellate court, but it can be refiled with a trial court.

6 comments

  1. Alcohol is a factor in the following

    * 73% of all felonies * 73% of child beating cases * 41% of rape cases * 80% of wife battering cases * 72% of stabbings * 83% of homicides.

    According to the Australian National Drug Research Institute (2003): “Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs are prematurely killing around seven million people worldwide each year, and robbing tens of millions more of a healthy life. The research into the global burden of disease attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs found that in 2000, tobacco use was responsible for 4.9 million deaths worldwide, equating to 71 percent of all drug-related deaths. Around 1.8 million deaths were attributable to the use of alcohol (26 percent of all drug-related deaths), and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) caused approximately 223,000 deaths (3 percent of all drug-related deaths).”

    According to DrugRehabs.Org, national mortality figures for 2009 were: tobacco 435,000; poor diet and physical inactivity 365,000; alcohol 85,000; microbial agents 75,000; toxic agents 55,000; motor vehicle crashes 26,347; adverse reactions to prescription drugs 32,000; suicide 30,622; incidents involving firearms 29,000; homicide 20,308; sexual behaviors 20,000; all illicit drug use, direct and indirect 17,000; and marijuana 0.

    Apart from the fact that legal drugs kill far more people than all the illegal drugs combined, debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Are drugs like Heroin, Meth or Alcohol dangerous? It simply doesn’t matter, because if we prohibit them then we sure as hell know that it makes a bad situation far worse. If someone wants to attempt to enhance or destroy their lives with particular medicines or poisons, that should be their business, not anybody else’s. Their lives aren’t ours to direct. And anyway, who wants to give criminals a huge un-taxed, endless revenue stream?

    A great many of us are slowly but surely wising up to the fact that the best avenue towards realistically dealing with drug use and addiction is through proper regulation which is what we already do with alcohol & tobacco, clearly two of our most dangerous mood altering substances. But for those of you whose ignorant and irrational minds traverse a fantasy plane of existence, you will no doubt remain sorely upset with any type of solution that does not seem to lead to your absurd and unattainable utopia of a drug free society.

  2. So where does the 2009 ruling by the California Court of Appeals in County of San Diego v San Diego NORML fit into this memo which seems to me to be diametrically opposed to that ruling?

    http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/PubArticleCA.jsp?id=1202423436702

    I realize that it is only binding in California but that’s because the SCOTUS wasn’t interested in hearing the appeal made by San Diego County. The California Appeals Court opinion specifically stated that SB 420′s requirement that the Counties issue ID Cards to patients does not violate the CSA. That ruling sure seems to say that State employees can’t be prosecuted for performing administrative tasks with regards to charging them with violating the law. Actually it’s so cut and dried from my point of view that I find the US Attorneys’ letters and the actions by the Governors of Washington, New Jersey, and Arizona to rise to the level of insulting the intelligence of the voters and are not valid positions for either the US Attorneys or the Governors. But then again it’s never been particularly surprising to find “the law is the law” crowd willing to break laws with which they disagree, now has it?

    Combined with the arrest of Dr. Ruth Buck in Michigan it seems that the Feds are thinking they can reverse past losses. In the case of Dr. Buck that would be Conant v Walters, (9th Cir 2002) 309 F.3d 629, cert denied Oct. 14, 2003) which is only binding in the 9th Circuit, again, because the SCOTUS had no interest in hearing the appeal. Michigan is in the 6th Circuit and a contrary opinion by the Federal Court of Appeals would almost certainly send the question to the SCOTUS which has seen 4 new Justices take a seat on that Court since the 2003 denial of certiorari of Conant. At the same time a ruling by the 6th that concurs with the 9th would likely mean that the idea that the decision in Conant is very unlikely to be overturned.

    I can’t say many things that are certain about this issue vis a vis these insane laws but I do have a strong belief that something significant was done by the proverbial “man behind the curtain” of which we’re unaware. There’s no doubt in my mind that the attitude of the Feds from Barack Obama down has changed significantly in just the last 6 months or so. I don’t know what, who or how but I am certain that it happened. Stay tuned.

    Toodles!

  3. Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.

    The current proposal before Congress, bill HR 2306, will allow states to decide how they will regulate marijuana. Email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and ask them to sign on as a CO-SPONSOR of HR 2306.

    For more info, here’s the USA Today article
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2011/06/ron-paul-barney-frank-marijuana-/1

    And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom-loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!

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