The Future of Med. Marijuana May be in Court

Dec 7, 2012

The future of medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona is likely going to have to be finally resolved by the state Supreme Court.

On Tuesday a Maricopa County judge rejected arguments that part of the voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is illegal because it conflicts with federal law. Judge Michael Gordon acknowledged federal law makes marijuana illegal. But he said the state can decide that people with certain medical conditions can have the drug -- and license dispensaries to sell it. Gordon said federal agents remain free to charge people with violating federal law. But Attorney General Tom Horne said that misses the point. He said it would be one thing if Arizona decriminalized marijuana.

"We could, if we chose, pass a law saying that the state will not prohibit those things," Horne said. "So local and state police will not be arresting people for those things. We'll leave it to the federal government."

But he said the Arizona law actually authorizes people to sell the drug despite it being a felony under federal law.

"If we authorize people to sell marijuana when the federal government prohibits it, we are making ourselves an obstacle to federal law," Horne added.

Horne said the state cannot do that, which is why he intends to appeal the ruling.