Releaf Magazine

Either the begining….or the end….

Holder promises marijuana verdict coming 'soon'

Wait, I thought we already told them, IT'S LEGAL NOW. -UA

Attorney General Eric Holder promised Washington and Colorado state attorneys general on Tuesday that the Justice Department would issue its verdict “soon” on how it plans to treat the states’ recent moves to legalize marijuana.“We’re still in the process of reviewing both of the initiatives that were passed,” said Holder, speaking at the National Association of Attorney General annual conference in Washington, D.C.“You will hear soon. We’re in the last stages of that review and we’re trying to make a determination as to what the policy ramifications are going to be, what our international obligations are — there are a whole variety of things that go into this determination — but the people of [Colorado] and Washington deserve an answer and you will have one soon.”

Holder was responding to Colorado state attorney general John Suthers, who asked the nation’s top law enforcement official when the DOJ would be weighing in on the state laws that have been in effect for nearly two months.

The DOJ is charged with enforcing the federal prohibition on marijuana, and the state laws run counter to the long-existing ban, creating a debate over which law should be enforced and which law is most responsive to the will of the people.

Marijuana has been a centerpiece of the federal government’s “war on drugs,” aimed at cracking down on drug use in the United States. But the growing number of people who support the decriminalization of pot — which is still legally classified nationally in the same category as heroin — has some policymakers in Washington, D.C., rethinking their approach.

On Monday, nearly a dozen House Democrats introduced several bills that would decriminalize marijuana and remove the drug from the list of controlled substances, while requiring the federal government to regulate it and impose penalties on tax-evaders.

Holder has met or talked with both governors and attorneys general from Colorado and Washington during the DOJ’s review process, posing a series of questions to the state leaders, such as how they plan to prevent marijuana produced in the state from being trafficked to other states where the drug is not legal.

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Another victory

Medical-marijuana law is legal, Arizona judge rules

PHOENIX - Arizona's 2-year-old medical marijuana law is legal and is not preempted by federal law, a trial judge ruled Tuesday.

In an extensive ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon rejected arguments by Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery that the voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is void because the possession and sale of marijuana remain a federal crime.

In his decision, Gordon pointed out 18 states and the District of Columbia already have laws permitting some form of legal marijuana use. And the judge said he wasn't about to declare Arizona's own version invalid.

"This court will not rule that Arizona, having sided with the ever-growing minority of states and having limited it to medical use, has violated public policy," he wrote.

Most immediately, the decision should pave the way for a planned dispensary in Sun City to get the paperwork it needs to open. But the broad scope of the ruling, unless overturned, provides legal grounds for the state going ahead with plans to license more than 100 dispensaries around the state.

Both Horne and Montgomery vow to appeal.

Gordon acknowledged Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act to combat drug abuse and to control the legitimate and illegitimate traffic of drugs. That law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug for which there is no legitimate medical use.

And the judge agreed the 2010 initiative allowing the medical use of marijuana reflects "a very narrow but different policy choice" about the drug. But he said the fact Arizona has a different view of the drug does not conflict with or illegally undermine the federal law: Federal agents remain free to arrest Arizonans who violate federal law.

Horne said that misses the point.

He said Arizona could decriminalize the possession of marijuana entirely, similar to what voters just approved in Washington and Colorado. That would leave it up to federal agents to decide if they want to charge anyone with violating the Controlled Substances Act.

But in this case, though, Horne said the state is actually authorizing the sale of marijuana.

"A state cannot authorize what the federal government prohibits," he said.

Horne said the Oregon Supreme Court, on the same point, found last year that Oregon's medical-marijuana statutes were pre-empted by federal law.

Gordon acknowledged that ruling, but said he sees no conflict. He said what voters approved in Arizona actually could be interpreted to support the goals of Congress in combating drug abuse.

"The Arizona statute requires a physician to review a patient's medical circumstances prior to authorization of its use," he said. Those without a card remain subject to arrest under state law.

Gordon also said the initiative also gives the state health department "full regulatory authority." That agency, in turn, has enacted rules to ensure dIspensaries operate within the law.

The 2010 initiative says people with certain medical conditions, and a doctor's recommendation, can get a state-issued identification card allowing them to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. The most recent figures show more than 33,600 recommendation applications have been approved.

That law also envisions a network of up to 125 state-licensed dispensaries to grow and sell the drug to cardholders and their caregivers.

The state has given final approval to two dispensaries, one in Tucson and one in Glendale, though neither has opened its doors.

But the owners of White Mountain Health Center ran into a problem in Sun City: The health department requires that anyone seeking a dispensary permit must provide documentation that the site is properly zoned and Maricopa County officials, acting under Montgomery's advice, refused to provide the necessary letter.

Dispensary owners sued, asking Gordon to order the county to issue the letter.

The case before Gordon dealt solely with the license to operate a dispensary and had nothing to do with the ability of state workers to issue the ID cards to medical marijuana users. But Montgomery has said he believes that, too, violates federal law and intends to try to have those declared illegal - if he can get this ruling overturned.

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