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Legal Arguments Heard in Arizona's Medicinal Marijuana Case

In the latest round of legal challenges over Arizona's medicinal marijuana law, attorneys for the State of Arizona and Maricopa County argued their points Superior Court last week. Both agencies believe that they cannot implement the law because it is pre-empted by federal law.

In 2010, Arizona joined a number of states to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. While voters approved the measure, it has yet to be fully implemented. The law allows for up to 126 dispensaries to be established throughout the state, but none have completed all the steps required to open. The latest hearing stems from a lawsuit initiated by a company who petitioned Maricopa County for zoning clearances to establish a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Sun City. The County refused, citing conflicts with federal law.

Under the Controlled Substances Act (which is federal law), it is unlawful to possess or distribute marijuana. As such, county officials fear being prosecuted under federal law simply for following state law. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that the state has the right to sanction limited activities involving marijuana that involve "a narrow subset of people"; specifically those who have approved to use the drug for medicinal purposes.

The judge noted that his ruling would be a critical step in the implementation process, and that he would not provide an expedited ruling.

In the meantime, possession of marijuana in Arizona (without a proper certificate) is considered a crime. If you have charged with a crime related to marijuana, it is important to know your rights and options. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you.

Source: SFGate.com, "Judge hears arguments on Arizona marijuana law" October 21, 2012

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