The federal government has sent state governments a clear message on medical marijuana: they’re not going to get in the way.
Arizona governor Jan Brewer has been at the forefront of a fight over state-level legality of medical marijuana. This week the Obama Administration handed the marijuana advocates a big win.
In typical style, Brewer approached her opposition to medical marijuana in Arizona in backwards, Orwellian manner. Arizona voted to implement a legal medical marijuana program in in the 2010 midterm elections. Brewer, however, blocked the program from being implemented, saying that it contradicted the federal Controlled Substances Act and that implementing it would expose Arizona state employees to prosecution by the federal government.
“I won’t stand aside while state employees and average Arizonans acting in good faith are unwittingly put at risk,” she said. She then sued the federal government for “clarity,” to resolve the apparent conflict between the law Arizona voters had passed and the federal government’s own stance on marijuana.
On Monday the federal government dismissed the claim as ridiculous and filed to drop the entire suit, promising it has no plans to prosecute state employees for implementing legal medical marijuana programs voted into law.
The Department of Justice motion to dismiss says that in implementing its medical marijuana program Arizona has no “concrete plan to act in violation of the Controlled Substances Act” and that “plaintiffs can point to no threat of enforcement against the State’s employees” on the part of the federal government.
Brewer had tried to use threat of federal prosecution as a roadblock to prevent the state’s marijuana program from being implemented, and the Department of Justice has answered, making it clear that they won’t prevent states from implementing such programs or prosecute for doing so.
A lawyer for the ACLU said, “By taking the highly unusual step of challenging her own state’s law, Gov. Brewer is undermining the will of Arizona voters and unconscionably seeking to prevent thousands of sick Arizonans from being able to access important medicine.” It would seem that with the federal government calling “not it,” Brewer is just about out of obstacles to use in objecting to her state’s medical marijuana policy.
This is good news for pot advocates everywhere, since the brief implies the same policy holds true for all states. Marijuana Policy Project notes that New Jersey Chris Christie recently implemented that state’s medical marijuana program, saying he doesn’t believe the federal government will waste federal resources “on going after dispensaries in New Jersey.”
Turns out he was right. Smoke if you got ‘em, state governments.