Judge Won't Delay Marijuana Ruling

Dec 13, 2012

A judge this morning rebuffed efforts by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to further delay the paperwork necessary for opening a marijuana dispensary in Sun City.

Medical Marijuana sign in Los Angeles
Credit Laurie Avocado

Earlier this month Judge Michael Gordon rejected Montgomery's contention that Arizona cannot license people to sell marijuana because it remains illegal under federal law. Gordon ordered the county to provide the necessary certification required under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act to show the planned site is properly zoned for that. In a telephonic hearing, Montgomery sought a stay of that ruling, saying he wants time to take the issue to the Court of Appeals.

"If we have to move forward and take action on something that obviously we're advocating we believe is in violation of federal law, we will have effectively done what we're trying to avoid doing," Montgomery said.

But Emma Anderson, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said there's no danger to county employees for just processing paperwork even though marijuana possession and sale remain illegal under federal law.

"The county cannot be federally prosecuted for issuing a zoning compliance statement at all, much less against its will, as would be the case here," Anderson said.

The legal issue is bigger than this one dispensary. Montgomery said that appellate ruling he hopes to get could determine what action state and local law enforcement officers can take against dispensary operators.