News Flash 1-18-12

Judge Gama Says:  Brewer illegally delayed Marijuana Law

PHOENIX — A state judge has ordered Gov. Jan Brewer to finally fully implement  the 2010 voter-approved Medical Marijuana Act, saying she acted illegally in  holding it up.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Richard Gama rejected  the governor’s argument that she has the discretion to delay enactment of parts  of the law while she sought a ruling from another court about the liability of  state workers under federal drug laws.

“Defendants cite no authority for  this proposition, and the court has found none,” Gama wrote in his ruling made  public Wednesday.

“The voters intended the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act  be implemented within 120 days. This has not been done.”

Gama also ruled  that state Health Director Will Humble illegally imposed some rules on who can — and cannot — have a license to operate a marijuana dispensary. The judge said  nothing in the voter-approved law allows such restrictions.

The ruling  removes the last roadblock Brewer has thrown up to licensing  dispensaries.

“What Judge Gama said in his order is that she’s to  implement the act, period,” said Ty Taber. He represents interests that sought  to force Brewer to finally comply with the law.

But gubernatorial press  aide Matthew Benson said his boss has not yet decided whether to comply, saying  she could appeal.

“She’s going to have to have an opportunity to review  this decision and decide where to go from here,” Benson said.

Taber said,  though, she does not have much time, with the law requiring any appeal within 30  days. Absent any action by that time, Taber said Gama’s ruling takes effect and  the state will have no choice but to start licensing dispensaries.

The  ruling is the latest in a string of setbacks for Brewer on the issue of whether  Arizonans should be able to purchase and use marijuana for medical  purposes.

Brewer opposed the 2010 initiative to allow those with a  doctor’s recommendation to obtain up to 2-1/2 ounces of marijuana every two  weeks to treat a specified list of medical conditions.

It passed anyway.  And the health department has processed and approved about 18,000 individual  applications since early last year.

The law also required the state to  license about 125 nonprofit dispensaries where cardholders could legally obtain  the drug.

But Brewer blocked health officials from even accepting  applications for these after federal prosecutors refused to provide assurances  that the employees who handle those applications would not find themselves  facing federal charges. And she asked U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to  say whether the workers have immunity.

Bolton threw out the lawsuit last  month, saying there was no evidence any public employee in any state with a  medical marijuana law had ever been prosecuted. Anyway, the judge said, it was  not in her power to offer immunity to anyone.

Last week Brewer agreed not  to pursue that case. The governor said she would allow licensing of dispensaries — but only after the lawsuit in front of Gama about the legality of Humble’s  rules was resolved.

Now she has that.

In that part of the ruling,  Gama agreed with would-be dispensary operators that some of the restrictions  Humble imposed are beyond the authority voters gave him in approving the law