Arizona: Governor Directs State Health Officials To Implement Voter-Approved Cannabis Dispensary Measure

Phoenix, AZ: Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday directed state officials to move forward with plans to implement sections of an approved 2010 voter initiative (Proposition 203) that allows for the licensed production and distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

The law, known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), removes state-level criminal penalties for the use and possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by qualified patients who are registered with the state Department of Health. The measure also mandates the state to adopt rules governing the establishment of up to 125 nonprofit cannabis dispensaries, which would be legally authorized to produce and dispense marijuana to authorized patients on a not-for-profit basis.

Governor Brewer — who opposed the ballot measure — had previously filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that her administration’s compliance with the law’s state-licensing provisions would put state employees in danger of federal prosecution. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NORML Legal Committee co-authored a Motion to Dismiss the case. United State’s District Judge Susan Bolton dismissed the governor’s suit earlier this month.

Speaking publicly on Friday, Gov. Brewer announced that she will not re-file her lawsuit, and ordered state health officials "to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities," as is required by the 2010 law.

According to the website of the Arizona Department of Health, the department hopes to begin accepting applications for dispensaries this summer.

To date, only three states — Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico — have granted licenses to allow for the state-sanctioned production and distribution of cannabis. (Several other states, including Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont, have enacted licensing legislation, but have yet to issue any actual dispensary licenses.)

An estimated 16,000 Arizonans are presently registered to legally possess cannabis under state law. Under the law, qualified patients may cultivate their own cannabis at home if they do not reside within 25 miles of an operating cannabis dispensary.

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500, or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: