PHOENIX -- With the state health department suspending Arizona's Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program, people with medical marijuana cards now have to learn how to grow pot if they want to take advantage of the state's new initiative.
Several people showed up on Sunday to a free workshop in Scottsdale designed to teach people the basics of growing marijuana. People learned the proper soil to use, as well as lighting and growing techniques to have successful plants.
According to state law, it's legal to grow marijuana as long as that person has a registered card with the state health department.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the state of Arizona asking for a declaratory judgment on the legality of its new voter-approved medical marijuana initiative. They want to know if Arizona citizens have any protection under the state law.
This comes after the federal government issued a warning to all Arizonans that using, having, growing or distributing marijuana is still against the law under federal guidelines. That warning came in a letter from U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke to Will Humble, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
While Burke said in his letter that growers and sellers could face federal charges, he also said he had no plans to go after “seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen and are in clear and unambiguous compliance” with Arizona’s law.
“The Justice Department did a 180-degree turn,” Horne said. Early on a memo stated that cases in which people who were doing things that were legal under state law would not be prosecuted. Those cases would be a given a low priority. Recently, however, U.S. attorneys for several districts, including Arizona, have issued letters stating the opposite.
“We have to listen to what they’re saying because they put people in jeopardy,” Horne said on Wednesday.
While supporters of the initiative accuse Horne and Brewer of trying to go against what voters have decided, Horne said that is absolutely not the case.
“We have not sought to undo the will of the voters, nor have we sought to give implementation to our own views of the merits of the situation," he said Wednesday. "We’ll let those with an interest in the subject actually do the arguing for one side or the other on the merits of it. We simply think a court has to rule on it.”
The application process for potential dispensaries was slated to begin on Wednesday, June 1.
It’s not clear when any declaratory judgment will be made or how long the medical marijuana program will be delayed.