PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer released a statement Friday that the state will not be re-filing a lawsuit that halted medical marijuana dispensaries from being authorized.
"The State of Arizona will not re-file in federal court a lawsuit that sought clarification that State employees would not be subject to federal criminal prosecution simply for implementing the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA)," Brewer said in the release. "Instead, I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a pending legal challenge to the Department's medical marijuana rules is resolved."
Brewer also sent a letter to acting U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, seeking clarification to the government's position regarding employee participation in regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.
"It is well-known that I did not support passage of Proposition 203, and I remain concerned about potential abuses of the law," Brewer said. "But the State's legal challenge was based on my legitimate concern that state employees may find themselves at risk of federal prosecution for their role in administering dispensary licenses under this law."
Last week the state's lawsuit was dismissed and there was no clarity provided on the likely conflict between Prop 203 and federal drug law.
"The State of Arizona was fully implementing the provisions of Proposition 203 last spring," Brewer said. "That's when Arizona was among a host of states that received letters from the U.S. Department of Justice threatening potential legal ramifications for any individual participating in a medical marijuana program, even in states where it had been legally approved."
A federal judge ruled Jan. 4 that the state's lawsuit isn't legally eligible for court consideration.
"Would state employees at the Department of Health Services, charged with administering and licensing marijuana dispensaries, face federal prosecution? This was the basis for calling a ‘time out' in order for the State to seek a straightforward answer from the court. With our request for clarification rebuffed on procedural grounds by the federal court, I believe the best course of action now is to complete the implementation of Proposition 203 in accordance with the law.
Know this: I won't hesitate to halt State involvement in the AMMA if I receive indication that State employees face prosecution due to their duties in administering this law."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.