Department Of Justice Decision Could Protect Ariz. Medical Marijuana Law

August 30, 2013

The Department of Justice says it will not try to void laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, even though possession of pot remains a felony under federal law. The only caveat is that the two states must protect against marijuana abuse. The decision could give Arizona's medical marijuana law some added protection but it will not halt an effort by Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to have a court declare the state law illegal.

“They can exercise prosecutorial discretion and not enforce the law if they choose, but that's not the issue,” Montgomery said. “The issue is that a state law cannot make legal what a federal law makes illegal. It's preempted by federal law.”

But, a trial judge has already rebuffed the preemption argument, saying the state's decision to let some people sell and use pot does not interfere with the ability of federal prosecutors to bring their own charges. That ruling is now on appeal.

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