ACLU joins lawsuit supporting Arizona Medical Marijuana Act

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The American Civil Liberties Union is lending their support to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

On Thursday, the ACLU joined a lawsuit filed by White Mountain Health Center, Inc. that seeks to allow them to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Sun City.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which was approved by voters in 2010, requires anyone who wants to open a not-for-profit dispensary to receive documentation from the local jurisdiction that the proposed location fits with local zoning ordinances, or that there are no local zoning ordinances.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has refused to issue the documentation to any proposed dispensaries in Maricopa County because he claims the law is preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

White Mountain Health Center, Inc. filed their lawsuit back in June. It lists Montgomery, Maricopa County, and the state Department of Health Services and its director, Will Humble, as the defendants.

“Maricopa County is attempting to thwart the will of the people,” said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. “Voters approved this measure so patients who suffer from serious medical conditions can have safe and reliable access to their medicine. The regulation of drugs and medicine is traditionally a power exercised by the states, and the Constitution allows Arizona and the federal government to make different policy choices in these arenas.”

Governor Jan Brewer and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne have also tried to prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from opening.

In 2011, Brewer attempted to have a federal judge declare the Arizona law preempted on the grounds that it could put state employees in danger of federal prosecution.

The court ruled that Arizona had not shown that state employees were in any danger of being prosecuted by the federal government.