Arizona will ask a federal court today to clarify whether its voter-approved medical-marijuana law conflicts with federal drug statutes, launching what probably will be a lengthy legal battle that could cripple the state’s fledging industry and spark more legal action, reports the Arizona Republic. Gov. Jan Brewer will put a temporary halt to the state’s permit process for marijuana dispensaries, set to begin Wednesday.
The suit was prompted by a May 2 letter from U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke to state Health Director Will Humble warning that prospective pot growers and sellers could be prosecuted under federal drug-trafficking laws. Arizona and 15 other states have medical-marijuana laws that conflict with federal law, which outlaws the cultivation, sale, or use of marijuana. Although Burke said his office would not go after people who use medical marijuana “in clear and unambiguous compliance” with state law, state Attorney General Terry Horne and Brewer maintain that his letter, along with a raft of memos from federal prosecutors in other states, signaled a harder-line policy and the threat that state workers could be prosecuted.