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DoJ, ACLU Want AZ MMJ Suit Dismissed

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Two months ago, Arizona governor Jan Brewer filed a lawsuit asking for an official verdict regarding whether or not the state’s medical marijuana law is legal. On Monday, Federal attorneys asked a judge to throw the suit out, claiming there was no legal basis for it.

In his written request, filed in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, Deputy U.S. Attorney Scott Risner said that unless there was an actual threat of prosecution under federal drug laws, the Arizona governor’s question is “purely academic” and therefore doesn’t warrant judicial review.

Arizona state Attorney General Tom Horne, the person who filed the May lawsuit on Governor Brewer’s behalf disagrees with Risner, and and further maintains that Risner isn’t being entirely accurate.

At the heart of the argument is the decision made last year by Arizona voters to create a system allowing patients with a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued ID card to buy their medical marijuana from state-regulated dispensaries. Since election day, however, several federal prosecutors, among them Dennis Burke, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, warned that both possession and sale of medical marijuana are illegal under federal law. Governor Brewer then directed Horne to get a ruling on her state’s MMJ program from the federal courts.

Meanwhile, and also at Governor Brewer’s direction, the Arizona state health department has decided not to license any MMJ dispensaries, though individual patients are still being certified to use the drug.

According to Risner, there is no basis for Horne’s suit because there are no state employees involved in the MMJ program who are facing prosecution.

Horne, however, says that’s not entirely true, pointing out that in their letters to officials in MMJ-friendly states around the country, federal prosecutors have stated that individual users have nothing to fear. Horne feels, however, that what the letters do not say is where the threat lies.

Speaking on this issue, he explained, “They gave no assurance to state employees, they gave no assurance to dispensaries. And they said they were going to vigorously prosecute anyone who is involved in the distribution of marijuana.What unbelievable hypocrites!”

Horne also argued against Risner’s statement that state health workers are not at risk since they’re not actually accepting or processing dispensary applications at this time, complaining, “We asked for the court decision and we said we’ll hold it up until there is a court decision.” He also referred to the Department of Justice’s position that by putting a licensing program on hold the state is now not entitled to a ruling on the issue that caused the hold is mere, “sophistry.”

But the Department of Justice is not the only entity trying to have Governor Brewster’s lawsuit dismissed. Also working toward this goal are the ACLU and those who would apply to operate dispensaries if they could.

Judge Bolton has not yet set a hearing date on the issue.

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Brief: Legal MMJ Moves Forward in Delaware

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Great news for the people of Delaware: the state Senate there has approved a bill allowing the medical use of cannabis in The First State, with 18 yea votes and only 3 nays. That vote was on Thursday, March 31st.

Senator Robert Venables (representing Laurel) told the press that using marijuana for medicinal reasons will help ease the unncessary suffering of cancer patients and others.

This bill would give authorized users of medical marijuana legal permission to possess up to six ounces of the drug, which would be obtainable from “compassion centers” which much be registered with the state.

The bill now moves to the Delaware House of Representatives for their review or approval, and then, if it’s approved, to the governor for signature or veto.

Here’s hoping the other half of the Delaware legislature does the right thing, and gives this bill resounding support.

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MMJ in Hawaii

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Chronic patients in Hawaii may have cause for new hope

While medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for eleven years now, the state lacks any kind of dispensary system, which leaves patients there to acquire their weed either by buying it on the black market, or by growing their own.

Last month, however, state Senator Kalani English, of Maui, introduced SB1458, a bill designed to create what was he described as a “… comprehensive five-year medical marijuana distribution pilot program in an unspecified county.”

English explained, at the time, that he proposed the program because he was seeing too many suffering patients asking where they could get their medicine. He added that he had to make the bill “drip with money” in order to appeal to money-conscious legislative colleagues.

Under the terms of the bill dispensaries (which English referred to as “compassion centers” would be taxed, but they’d also allow patients visiting from other MMJ-friendly states to buy temporary permits for the duration of their visit to Hawaii, at a cost of $100, which may make Hawaii the first American marijuana tourist destination.

The bill passed the Senate at the end of March, and passed two House committees (Health and Safety) as well, with a hearing scheduled for the House Judiciary Committee today.

Last week, a call went out asking people for pro-MMJ testimony. If the bill passes today’s hearing, it will then go before the full House of Representatives, and then on to a joint hearing with both the Hawaii Senate and the House.

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Vermont Considers Dispensaries

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Like Hawaii, the state of Vermont has had medical marijuana laws on the books for several years, but has left patients to either grow their own cannabis or buy it from illegal sources.

Also like Hawaii, Vermont is considering the creation of dispensary system this year. In fact a bill allowing the creation of such businesses has already been introduced into the state legislature and has passed the state Senate Government Operations Committee and is scheduled for a full Senate hearing sometime this week.

The bill, which was sponsored (in part) by Senator Richard Sears (D-Bennington) includes restrictions that make it fairly conservative, especially when compared to the systems in place in states like California. Among them is a requirement that patients have appointments in order to buy cannabis from dispensaries.

There would also be a limit on the number of dispensaries allowed in Vermont. While the current language in the bill calls for a maximum of two dispensaries, it will be raised to four on the recommendation of Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn.

The change would increase revenue to the state as well as make it easier for patients.

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