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Feds warn Arizona over medical pot

Fake marijuana is displayed in a case July 1, at The 2811 Club, a private cannabis club that plans to dispense marijuana to medically qualified patients in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The federal government reiterated to Arizona that it will prosecute state workers for implementing the medical-marijuana program.

In a Feb. 16 letter to Gov. Jan Brewer, Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel said her office will continue to “vigorously enforce” federal laws against those who operate and facilitate large marijuana production facilities and marijuana production facilities involved in the selling of marijuana for medical use.

Scheel said that state employees who participate in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act “are not immune from liability” under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

However, Scheel wrote that seriously ill patients and caregivers who use pot as medically recommended treatment “will likely not be the focus of the (U.S. Attorney’s Office’s) limited prosecutorial resources.”

Brewer spokesman Matt Benson told The Arizona Republic the governor will not change course and will allow the state’s medical marijuana program to move forward.

“This doesn’t change anything for us,” Benson said, adding that the letter “leaves most of the governor’s questions unanswered” partly because it doesn’t address whether state employees face imminent prosecution for participating in the program.

Arizona’s medical-marijuana program was created in 2010 after voters passed a law that allows people with certain debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana.

Patients must register with the state, which issues identification cards to qualified patients and caregivers. Under the law, the state will set up and regulate up to 126 dispensaries.

Arizona and 15 other states have medical-marijuana laws that conflict with federal law, which outlaws the cultivation, sale or use of marijuana. Mounting federal pressure in California, Washington and other states has led to dispensary raids and crackdowns on landlords who lease property to dispensaries.

Will Humble, director of the state Department of Health Services, said the state is in a difficult position when it comes to implementing the medical marijuana program.

On one hand, federal authorities warning there is no “safe harbor or immunity” from federal prosecution, but on the other hand a state judge has ordered them to move forward with the program.

“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place — we’re stuck,” Humble said.

No state health employees will be allowed to “volunteer” to work on the medical-pot program and no one will be forced to work on it, either, he said.

Workers will go through a series of training in how to act responsibly and safely when working on the program, Humble said.

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

4 comments

  1. From a patient in Montana to Arizona: PLEASE DO NOT LET THE FEDS PUSH YOU AROUND! Stand your ground! Fly under the radar but stand up for your right to a healthy body!

    What is being done is bullying, plain and simple. This is coming to a head and we are all on the cusp of history. Share your experiences! Spread the word! Join forces with other patients/caregivers/advocates/supporters. The time for silence around this issue is gone and we must stand up to the hypocrites who have PATENTED CANNABINOIDS, who GIVE CANNABIS TO FEDERAL PATIENTS, yet claim this is not medicine.

    YOUR TIME IS UP, USA/DEA/NIH/NIDA and the dominoes are falling! You are at the end and can either step aside, join us, or be crushed by the last one – and that last one is in sight!

  2. Alcohol prohibition didn’t work, why should marijuana prohibition be any more successful? On May 4, 1923, The New York State legislature repealed the Mullan-Gage Act, which had incorporated the provisions of Prohibition into state law. The repeal placed the main burden of enforcing Prohibition on about 250 federal agents instead of 25,000 state and local officers. In much of the state Prohibition would effectively be dead except as an excuse to collect graft. New York was not the first state to repeal its enforcement laws, but as the nation’s most populous state, it carried the greatest weight. Source: americanheritage.com

  3. Prohibition has finally run its course; the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans have been destroyed or severely disrupted; what was once a shining beacon of liberty and prosperity has become a toxic, repressive, smoldering heap of hypocrisy and a gross affront to fundamental human decency. It is now the duty of every last one of us to insure that the people who are responsible for this shameful situation are not simply left in peace to enjoy the wealth and status that their despicable actions have, until now, afforded them. Former and present Prohibitionists must not be allowed to remain “untainted and untouched” from the unconscionable acts that they have viciously committed on their fellow citizens. – They have provided us with neither safe communities nor safe streets; we will provide them with neither a safe haven to enjoy their ill-gotten gains nor the liberty to repeat such a similar atrocity!

    Prohibition has evolved local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, helping them control vast swaths of territory while gifting them with significant social and military resources.

    Those responsible shall not go unpunished!

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