State health officials issued the first 97 allocations today to operate medical marijuana dispensaries. But some threatened legal actions could upset the whole process.
The 2010 voter-approved law bars health department officials from disclosing the winners or even where they will open. Health director Will Humble said the first shops could be running by the end of the month. But there are legal hurdles. Flagstaff attorney Lee Phillips said his clients did not get allocations, possibly because others who were ineligible were in the drawing.
"We're going to look at this whole dispensary lottery process," said Phillips "And if it's in fact correct that they included people who no longer are eligible, we are going to try to litigate that up here."
On the other side of the equation, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he is seeking a court order that the state law is precluded by federal drug statutes. That would most immediately allow county officials to refuse to process the local zoning permits necessary to open a dispensary. But Montgomery said he wants to attack the basis of the law which allows those with state-issued cards to possess marijuana.
"Once I get that ruling, what I'm going to then do is I'm going to turn around and issue guidance to law enforcement agencies within Maricopa County that medical marijuana cards are no longer a defense to the personal possession, and that we will move forward and prosecute those cases on the basis of that suit," Montgomery said.
Montgomery said, the case ultimately will wind up at the Arizona Supreme Court. And if the justices side with him, that will mean marijuana sale and possession by anyone in the state is once again a felony. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.