The next few weeks will be extremely important ones for medical marijuana in Arizona.
On Oct. 19, a judge will hear oral arguments in the White Mountain Health Center vs. ADHS case, which pits the medical cannabis industry against local and state officials who want to shut down the whole MMJ program.
The stakes are high, as the outcome of the case could ultimately determine the fate of dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses in Arizona and even other MMJ states.
The process is expected to move quickly after oral arguments, and observers say the judge could make an initial ruling by the end of the month.
White Mountain – a non-profit organization set up to open a dispensary in Arizona – filed the lawsuit after Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery declined to provide the required zoning documents for an MMJ center in the area.
Montgomery argues that federal laws trump the state’s MMJ program and has expressed concerns that allowing dispensaries to open would put city workers at risk of prosecution. He and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne filed separate motions for summary judgement on the case to help speed up the process. They have asked the court to dismiss the White Mountain suit, which would give them the legal justification they need to prevent dispensaries from opening.
“It is the county’s position that the AMMA is in direct violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act and therefore cannot be implemented without exposing county employees to the risk of federal prosecution,” Montgomery said in a recent press release. The state’s medical marijuana act, he added, “also runs afoul of the Supremacy Clause enshrined in the US Constitution by our Founding Fathers, which pre-empts state law that conflicts with federal law.”
If the judge rules in favor of the county, Arizona officials could theoretically seek to dismantle the state’s MMJ program. But if the court backs White Mountain, the county and state would have to abide by the medical cannabis law, and dispensaries would open up as planned.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union officially threw its weight behind the MMJ community, joining White Mountain’s lawsuit against the county.
The Arizona medical marijuana industry will gather Oct. 17 in a show of support for White Mountain at an event hosted by CannaJobs. Attendees will get updates about the case and advice as to how they should proceed with their MMJ business plans amid the current uncertainty.