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Posted on: July 14, 2011

Maricopa County to Join Federal Lawsuit over Arizona Medical Marijuana Act

PHOENIX, AZ (July 14, 2011) - The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors today approved a motion authorizing County Attorney Bill Montgomery to intervene as co-plaintiffs in the State of Arizona’s recently filed federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment on Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). In joining the suit as co-plaintiffs, the County is effectively asking the Court to determine whether the AMMA provides a “safe harbor” from federal prosecution to County officials charged with implementing the Act or, alternatively, whether the Act is preempted by federal law.

“I have asked the Board of Supervisors to intervene in the State’s lawsuit because the interests of the County are separate and distinct from those of the State and cannot be adequately represented by the State alone,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “County officers and employees who have a role in implementing the Medical Marijuana Act should not be put in a position of having to wait and see whether or not any particular federal administration’s policies would result in prosecution. This is a simple wish for fairness and legal certainty to avoid potential criminal liability,” he added.

Approved by Arizona voters last November, the AMMA requires Maricopa County officials to approve and issue permits for facilities engaged in medical marijuana distribution and cultivation. The Act is in apparent conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical exception. Under the CSA, the manufacture, distribution or possession of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for individuals and $1 million for entities.

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