High-Stakes Gamble: Arizona Gov. Brewer to Take Official Stance on Medical Pot Law

Did you miss the webinar “Women Leaders in Cannabis: Shattering the Grass Ceiling?” Head to MJBiz YouTube to watch it now!

Just days after a judge told Arizona officials to choose a side in the medical marijuana lawsuit they filed earlier this year, the state is ready to comply with the request.

To the surprise of no one, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer intends to take the official position that the state’s medical marijuana regulations conflict with federal laws deeming the drug illegal no matter the use.

Brewer lobbied against the law when it was on the 2010 ballot, but residents voted in favor of the measure, which allows the state to set up an MMJ infrastructure to regulate the use, growth and sale of medical pot. The state then began issuing MMJ cards to patients with qualifying medical conditions. Brewer, however, froze the process for licensing dispensaries and filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department demanding that the federal government clarify its position on states with medical cannabis laws.

Arizona officials did not take a position on the matter in the lawsuit. Instead, they simply asked for clarification. Observers speculated that the governor figured it would be politically dangerous to take a stance, considering the high level of controversy surrounding the issue. But several days ago, the judge overseeing the case issued an ultimatum: choose a side or risk having the case thrown out.

Pot advocates claim that the governor is simply trying to exert her will, as she has long opposed the use and sale of medical marijuana. Brewer, however, argues that proceeding with the plan to license dispensaries could put state workers at risk of federal prosecution, as they’d be aiding the sale of an illegal drug.

Regardless, the reality now is that the state is officially trying to stamp out a law that was passed by the majority of voters. That could have repercussions for Brewer going forward, no matter the outcome of the lawsuit.