On Tuesday Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon upheld Proposition 203 on the grounds that the state’s medical pot law does not undermine the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA)
The ruling took place more than two years after medical marijuana was legalized in Arizona and patients who’ve exercised great patience waiting for their medicine may now finally gain safe access. Judge Gordon made a distinction that medical pot advocates have long waited to see as part of a court ruling – that the CSA is intended to prevent drug abuse and combat drug trafficking. The very antithesis of a regulated state law (such as Prop 203) that will provide properly grown medication and not dangerous, addictive street drugs.
“The mere state authorization of a very limited amount of federally proscribed conduct, under a tight regulatory scheme, provides no meaningful obstacle to federal enforcement,” Gordon said. “No one can argue that the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA is impaired to the slightest degree.”
Prop 203 barely passed in November 2010 with 50.13% of the vote – an election so close that its passage wasn’t officially declared until a dozen days after the election. But nonetheless it was victorious and dispensaries will now be able to open following Judge Gordon’s rejection of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and state Attorney General Tom Horne attempting to block implementation of Prop 203 by refusing to issue required zoning documents on the basis that Prop 203 violates public policy. They had argued that being involved in regulating medical pot puts state employees in jeopardy of facing federal prosecution, as the White House has yet to honor states’ rights regarding medicinal cannabis. However, Judge Gordon noted the number of other states (20 total as well as Washington, D.C.) with legal medi-pot: “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,” Judge Gordon said.
Judge Gordon was ruling on a suit filed by White Mountain Health Center Inc, the operators of which plan on establishing a dispensary in Sun City, a “snowbird” retirement community (meaning it’s most populated during the winter months with retirees from the Midwest and Northeast) located in Maricopa County as part of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.
Attorney Montgomery and AG Horne remain opposed to Prop 203 and intend on appealing Judge Gordon’s decision.