ACLU Asks Federal Judge to Throw Out Arizona Governor’s Lawsuit Challenging State’s Medical Marijuana Law

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, (212) 540-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Asks Federal Judge to Throw Out Arizona Governor’s Lawsuit Challenging State’s Medical Marijuana Law

Lawsuit Is Affront to Arizona Voters and Impedes Sick People from Accessing Needed Medicine

PHOENIX - The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit filed in May by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that seeks to have her state’s medical marijuana law struck down.

In a motion filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, the ACLU charges that the lawsuit should be dismissed because, among other reasons, there has been no threat that state employees charged with carrying out the state’s law would be prosecuted by federal authorities.

“On the pretext of protecting her state employees, Gov. Brewer is simply seeking to thwart the will of Arizona’s voters and unconscionably block sick people from accessing their vital medicine,” said Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. “People should have the freedom to choose the medicine their doctors believe will be most effective for them.”

In May, Brewer filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and potential dispensary applicants seeking a ruling from a federal court that the law is preempted by federal law and should be struck down. The ACLU, along with the Phoenix law firm Gammage & Burnham, represents the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association (AzMMA), a non-profit, membership-based professional association that seeks to advance the interests of Arizona’s medical marijuana profession and the patients it serves, and that is a named defendant in Brewer’s lawsuit.

Brewer’s lawsuit claims that Arizona officials fear federal prosecution for implementing the law, even though Burke said in the days leading up to Brewer filing the lawsuit that the federal government has “no intention of targeting or going after people who are implementing or who are in compliance with state law.”

Brewer’s lawsuit also claims that Arizona’s medical marijuana law is in conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. But three appellate court decisions in California have previously rejected claims that California’s medical marijuana law is preempted by federal law. And the Oregon Supreme Court in May backed away from its previous ruling that a part of Oregon’s medical marijuana law is preempted by federal law.

A majority of Arizona voters in 2010 passed Proposition 203, which allows terminally and seriously ill patients in Arizona who find relief from marijuana to use it with a doctor’s recommendation. The law allows marijuana to be distributed by tightly regulated clinics to patients with state-issued registry cards and creates penalties for false statements and fraudulent cards.

“Gov. Brewer’s efforts to derail Prop 203 are bad for patients and bad for public safety,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “This law received broad public support because it was thoughtfully written to give patients access to vital medicine, while at the same time creating a well-regulated system of distribution. By preventing state health officials from doing their jobs, Brewer is actually doing more harm than good and creating chaos in a system sanctioned by Arizona voters.”

Along with Michelman, attorneys on the case are Daniel J. Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona, Lisa T. Hauser and Cameron C. Artigue of Gammage & Burnham, Flagstaff, Ariz. attorney Thomas W. Deene, who represents the Arizona Association of Dispensary Professionals, Inc. and attorneys from the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Rose Law Group PC, who represent the remainder of the named non-federal defendants in Brewer’s lawsuit.

A copy of today’s motion is available online at: www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/arizona-v-us-motion-dismiss

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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