Congress’s Intent Is Clear: States Can Legalize Medical Marijuana Without Violating Federal Law

In a Phoenix courtroom, the future of medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona hangs in the balance.

Last week, the Arizona Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case White Mountain Health Center v. Maricopa County. The central issue presented in the case is whether federal law — the Controlled Substances Act — invalidates the state-regulated dispensary provisions in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act through operation of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which means federal law nullifies state law when there is an irreconcilable conflict.

Here’s a little background: The AMMA, which Arizona voters approved in 2010, requires those seeking to operate medical marijuana dispensaries to obtain certification from local authorities that the proposed dispensary location complies with all applicable zoning regulations. White Mountain Health Center, our client, sought this zoning certification from Maricopa County so it could open a dispensary. County officials refused to sign the zoning form, claiming that doing so would subject them to federal criminal prosecution for violating the CSA and, further, that the federal CSA invalidates the state AMMA. As a result, White Mountain filed this lawsuit, simply asking the court to force county officials to follow Arizona law. The state of Arizona intervened in the case and has argued that federal law invalidates the state law.

See, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug under the CSA, which means that federal law prohibits nearly all use, distribution, possession, and cultivation, and in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana has “no…currently accepted medical use in treatment.” But a growing number of top policymakers and public health experts agree that this is an outdated and improper classification. Even former United States Attorney General Eric Holder recently expressed his belief that marijuana “ought to be rescheduled.”

Indeed, this position has become widespread and bi-partisan: Recent opinion polls show that 81 percent of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana. And state law increasingly reflects public opinion on this issue. Since 1996, 23 states and Washington D.C. have enacted medical marijuana laws.

So does the federal prohibition on marijuana mean that Arizona can’t take a different approach for purposes of its own state law?

In making this determination, the court of appeals must consider Congress’s intent. In a 2006 decision, the Supreme Court recognized the CSA’s main objectives are reducing drug abuse and managing the traffic of all controlled substances, both legal and illegal.

Like many state medical marijuana laws, the AMMA requires patients who want to use medical marijuana to be diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating medical condition and to receive certification from a licensed healthcare provider. The law and its implementing regulations further require producers and distributors to receive annual training by a medical professional and to be vetted by the Arizona Department of Health Services. Given how tightly regulated the system is, the AMMA actually helps curb drug abuse and stops the flow of unregulated drug traffic, thus furthering the CSA’s objective and honoring Congress’ intent.

In April 2015, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the CSA does not invalidate provisions in the AMMA that provide cardholding medical marijuana patients with immunity against state-level penalties based on marijuana activity that complies with state law. The court ruled that Arizona’s medical marijuana law does not conflict with, or “frustrate the CSA’s goals of conquering drug use or controlling traffic.”

In recent years, Congress provided very clear guidance about how it views the relationship between the CSA and state medical marijuana laws in the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to the federal budget (Sec. 542 on page 223). First approved in 2014, this amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from using money to interfere with the administration of medical marijuana programs in Arizona and 41 other states, territories, and D.C. Simply put, the passage of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment clearly demonstrates that Congress respects states’ medical marijuana laws, and it does not want the federal government to obstruct or impede them.

Courts are taking notice.  

Last October, a federal district court judge issued an order allowing for the reopening of a California medical marijuana dispensary, finding that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment demonstrates Congress’ intent “that States implement their medical marijuana laws in the ways they see fit,” without federal intrusion.

And now it’s Arizona’s turn to determine how to implement its own medical marijuana laws—a decision that has the potential to influence medical marijuana laws nationwide given that courts may turn to other courts’ rulings when deciding such cases. As the Arizona Court of Appeals considers whether the CSA invalidates the dispensary provisions in the AMMA in White Mountain Health Center v. Maricopa County, the court has an opportunity to honor the will of Arizona voters and contribute to the growing number of court decisions ruling that states can choose a different path than the federal government’s outdated and irrational marijuana policies.

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Bryant Samperi

If a Ceo and Board of a large corporation chose to produce and distribute a product that was killing 10's of thousands of people every year, and destroying billions of dollars of property, when those had a comparable product that was safer, that was responsible for killing thus far in our history 10's of millions of lives and destroying trillions of dollars in property, those would be prosecuted for crimes.

And the fact of the matter is straightforward and clear:

If those CEO's and the Board members (Congress) of the U.S. had chosen cannabis instead of alcohol as America's drug of choice, millions of lives would have been saved and trillions in property damage avoided.

They did not, They waged war against those choosing a safer alternative. They made sure the only drug to have ever been used as a chemical weapon against Americans (the tribes) on American soil - alcohol - the drug that has killed 10's of millions and destroyed trillions since is even sold cheap everywhere, but especially in the poor communities of this country.

And after all their incompetence choices - choices that have cost millions of lives and trillions of dollars in damage - alcohol is still the drug of choice of American lawmakers, judges, cops, doctors, and teachers. They ever use their deadly drug in the presence of our children.

Finally, adding insult to decades of injury and persecution of those choosing something safer that does not kill and destroy, they want to charge the cannabis producers and consumers exorbitant taxes to pay mitigate the destruction caused by their deadly drug of choice.

I want a lawsuit. I want justice. I want those criminals held accountable for the lives they have destroyed because they are responsible.

Remember, those use and serve and protect those who use a drug that has killed 10's of millions of Americans and destroyed trillion of dollars of their property. It is the only drug to ever have been used by previous corrupt politicians as a chemical weapon against other Americans - the tribes - and then spent another trillion dollars desroying those who were choosing a safer alternative, on that gives life and peace, not death and destruction.

Who still stand accountable for choosing death and destruction for their country while destroying those who did not?

Anonymous

Amen

Anonymous

How come Christian's back this behavior of alcohol use in our society and in every corner store, marijuana is a god sent. People, wake up, we are being poisoned, it's time to be medicated correctly and so much peace and good will come from this one simple change. Trade alcohol for marijuana and watch our planet thrive.

Drake Mallard

MJ is God's gift to humanity and alcohol is the Coyote Trickster.

mike bayham

Omitting, the government permits drug corporations to use open media (television) in effort to promote use of their product and, in doing so disclaim, if used this product can cause, memorizing, brain dysfunction, lost of memory, uncontrolled bleeding, even death, among a laundry list of other potentially dangerous consequences.
The overriding question remains, if government[s] primary function is to service the public-good, what gives it the right to criminalize, thus incarcerate people for smoking marijuana.

Anonymous

The government controls the marijuana industry just like it does liquor. Making money off sales, distribution, and licensing. If they give up control they won't make the money off it anymore. It's another way to line their pockets and fund more wars. They would rather see big Pharma and liquor harm humanity. It all boils down to greed. Money is more valuable to law makers, corporations, lenders, and governments then human life. You see Pfizer giving medication to peop,e that's been recalled 200 times like Effexor for example. The FDA doesn't stop it. It's because the first pharamcudical companies line the pockets of every branch in our judicial system to ensure they can peddle their narcotics. Marjiuana is something you can easily grow and use safely. It would end a lot of major phamarcutical companies lies they have brain washed people to believe fixes their alligments. If pot cures cancer half the United States has a right to sue the federal government for lies and treason to their own people for profit. It goes deeper. If the government legalized it for recreation across the u.s their money making machine is gone. They would get the payout in a dozen different ways from big Pharma and they wouldn't make the money off the consumer. Money off consumer being those jailed for it and those consuming. It's disgusting the lack of humanity and the selfishness off those that to a oath to protect their countries. In he end it will all be legal. The longer the government waits the more they pay out to the peop,e affected by their corruption. Those jailed for pot charges, those who died because medicine was kept from them such as cancer and seizure patients. All those 100 s of millions of lives one day will fight back. Fuck the system.

Anonymous

Fuck the Government

Anonymous

From a Michiganders perspective; seems the state legislature, judiciary and executives are more concerned with their paychecks and pensions which last I reviewed rank 3rd highest paid in the U.S., where our rank in population and budget has decreased down to 10-11th in the U.S.. Another unconstitutional act by the legislature most likely led on by the malicious intent to cover up murderers and waste resources on targeting the least violent of criminals that place no burden to society. Strange why the pedophile, incest, ill-famed homosexuals in the states and federal district leadership act so much with a fascade with false pretenses and a lack of regard for the spirit, intent and letter of the existing law (21 USC 802 section 15, 16 and 17... and MCL 333.26428) that there must in my opinion be a compounded and concealed criminal RICO (18 USC 96) operation that prefers to act as terrorists (18 USC 2331) that terrorize vulnrable adults and panders children after criminalizing behaviors that only require therapy most likely if there is any mental health issue. Most likely, the mental health issues are caused by the office neglect of duties (MCL 750.478, MCL 750.505, MCL 722.623 and/or MCL 330.1224) compounding and concealing their own invalid attorney, law enforcement, health care and retail operations that by far more ways and means poison civil domesticated society with their injurous devices MCL 750.200(h)(i) and invalid operators that perform assaults (MCL 750.82, et.al.) in appearantly accepted ways and means. Later to encourage a bribery operation (MCL 750.117 to 750.125) which kidnaps (MCL 750.349), restrains (MCL 750.349b), exhorts (MCL 750.213 & 750.214) and steals real property and estates then holds for ransom with unreasonable fine and fees (MCL 750.349, U.S. Constitutional 4th and 8th amendments) victims that are not even knowing or aware of how the invalid unconstitutional criminal justice system functions, operates and requires to maintain, exert and restore their Constitutioal, Statutory, Treaty and Administrative rights. This all being performed with a now more draconion system that for some reason is responsible for human life truthfully in a system that isn't capable of performing six sigma or at least lean sigma operations due to their malicious intent to destroy persons, property and estates (MCL 750.377, MCL 750.377a and MCL 750.380) without scientifically quantitatively validated quantitative qualifying examinations... prefering to follow some sort of crude combat trials (MCL 750.157, a, b and c, MCL 750.529 to 750.530) prior to crude customary hearsay (MCL 750.218, MCL 750.411a, MCL 767.60) judiciary procedures then health care operations if any... as well as customary law/trials and invalid hear say word of mouth fabricated evidenciary bench or jury trials. Strange all the laws that are broken by a bunch of armed robbers that for some reason aren't able to solve missing person cases, criminals that are missing persons and murders as well as serial killings. Huh, seems like a bunch of racketeering terrorists to me neglect of office of duties and compounding and concealing their own crimes against society.

Anonymous

Hell yeah. Truth

Anonymous

From a Michiganders perspective; seems the state legislature, judiciary and executives are more concerned with their paychecks and pensions which last I reviewed rank 3rd highest paid in the U.S., where our rank in population and budget has decreased down to 10-11th in the U.S.. Another unconstitutional act by the legislature most likely led on by the malicious intent to cover up murderers and waste resources on targeting the least violent of criminals that place no burden to society. Strange why the pedophile, incest, ill-famed homosexuals in the states and federal district leadership act so much with a fascade with false pretenses and a lack of regard for the spirit, intent and letter of the existing law (21 USC 802 section 15, 16 and 17... and MCL 333.26428) that there must in my opinion be a compounded and concealed criminal RICO (18 USC 96) operation that prefers to act as terrorists (18 USC 2331) that terrorize vulnrable adults and panders children after criminalizing behaviors that only require therapy most likely if there is any mental health issue and/or criminal behavior... of which is most likely victimless criminal acts until coerced, seduced, manipulated and intimidated to act since most don't wish, will or even know how to be criminal that I've met that only have family members that only use cannabis indica. Most likely, the mental health issues are caused by the office neglect of duties (MCL 750.478, MCL 750.505, MCL 722.623 and/or MCL 330.1224) compounding and concealing their own invalid attorney, law enforcement, health care and retail operations that by far more ways and means poison civil domesticated society with their injurous devices (MCL 750.200(h)(i)) like alcohol, crack, cocaine, meth, pills and invalid operators that perform assaults (MCL 750.82, et.al.) in appearantly accepted ways and means. Later to encourage a bribery operation (MCL 750.117 to 750.125) which kidnaps (MCL 750.349), restrains (MCL 750.349b), exhorts (MCL 750.213 & 750.214) and steals real property and estates then holds for ransom with unreasonable fine and fees (MCL 750.349, U.S. Constitutional 4th and 8th amendments) victims that are not even knowing or aware of how the invalid unconstitutional criminal justice system functions, operates and requires to maintain, exert and restore their Constitutioal, Statutory, Treaty and Administrative rights. This all being performed with a now more draconion system that for some reason is responsible for human life truthfully in a system that isn't capable of performing six sigma or at least lean sigma operations due to their malicious intent to destroy persons, property and estates (MCL 750.377, MCL 750.377a and MCL 750.380) without scientifically quantitatively validated quantitative qualifying examinations... prefering to follow some sort of crude combat trials (MCL 750.157, a, b and c, MCL 750.529 to 750.530) prior to crude customary hearsay (MCL 750.218, MCL 750.411a, MCL 767.60) judiciary procedures then health care operations if any... as well as customary law/trials and invalid hear say word of mouth fabricated evidenciary bench or jury trials. Strange all the laws that are broken by a bunch of armed robbers that for some reason aren't able to solve missing person cases, criminals that are missing persons and murders as well as serial killings. Huh, seems like a bunch of racketeering terrorists to me neglect of office of duties and compounding and concealing their own crimes against society.

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