Arizona voters approved medical marijuana in 2010 and have been fighting with local officials for a variety of reasons ever since.
The latest skirmish ended well for MMJ patients and their advocates when the state Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Tuesday that local law officials cannot use federal anti-marijuana laws to put the kibosh on zoning for MMJ dispensaries.
While acknowledging federal law makes pot possession and sale a felony, the judges noted that states establish their own laws on the subject and the feds don’t get to intervene.
When Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery tried to argue that federal law trumps Arizona’s duly approved Medical Marijuana Act, he was told by Judge Donn Kessler that his claims had no legal basis.
Judge Kessler also rejected Montgomery’s sly argument that county officials who issue zoning permits for dispensaries would be aiding and abetting the violation of federal law.
The dispensary in question was the White Mountain Health Center, which had been seeking the necessary certification from Maricopa County.
The conflict took off back in 2010 when legal dispensaries were going through the usual red tape of setting up, which involved being properly zoned.
Back then Montgomery was already instructing county officials not to respond to dispensary requests. He misled the officials into believing they would be violating federal laws by facilitating anything to do with marijuana.
As Montgomery insisted, incorrectly, that the state cannot obstruct federal law, Judge Kessler pointed out the flaws in that argument—nothing in the Controlled Substances Act prohibits states from having their own drug laws.
“Arizona, like all other states, has the power to decriminalize certain acts and exempt certain actors for purposes of state law,” Kessler wrote, according to the Arizona Capitol Times. He said there is no conflict with federal law because nothing Arizona does precludes the federal government, if it wants, from enforcing its own laws.
Meanwhile, Montgomery recently said he expects Trump to crack down on medical marijuana laws nationwide and to “end the charade” of pot legalization. He also proposed that Arizona should be able to make its own laws on immigration, abortion, etc., and that “the federal government should stay out of our business.”
However, when it comes to medical marijuana, it seems Montgomery wants the federal government in his business.
Montgomery must not have gotten the memo—the Cole memo, that is, enacted in 2013 when it laid out an official policy of non-interference with state marijuana laws.
Arizona, which lost a bid to legalize recreational weed this past November, has some of the most draconian laws on the books when it comes to marijuana.
Possession of any amount of weed in Arizona, even for first time offenders, is considered a felony that could land an offender in prison for up to two years and/or fines of up to $150,000.
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