News this week about scrutiny over Arizona’s medical marijuana program will leave us wringing our hands at the voting booth.
The federal government, in a Feb. 16 letter, told Gov. Jan Brewer it would prosecute state workers for implementing the medical marijuana program, according to the Associated Press, saying they “are not immune from liability” under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Voters approved the state program in 2010 to allow people with certain debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana. Qualified patients must register with the state and Arizona officials plan to set up and regulate as many as 126 dispensaries.
However, Arizona is among 16 states in the country that have medical marijuana laws, which conflict with federal law outlawing the cultivation, sale or use of marijuana, the AP reported. Evidence of the federal government’s stance includes the dispensary raids and crackdowns on landlords who lease property to dispensaries in California, Washington and other states.
This past week we editorialized on the federal government’s rejection of voter ID bills in Texas and South Carolina. The big difference, we were told, was that voters approved Arizona’s requirements through an initiative, rather than seeing the measure come out of the Legislature.
That left us thinking Arizona voter ID rules, in effect since 2004 requiring identification to vote, would be exempt or above reproach.
Unfortunately, like the voter ID law, Arizona’s voters approved the medical marijuana program.
When sitting back and reflecting on this ongoing battle over state-versus-federal power, one has to wonder if anyone fully understands where the line is drawn. State elections officials should be more diligent before initiatives go to the ballot, vetting conflicts with federal law.
That will not happen anytime soon, if history is our guide. No bill or initiative is immune to federal study or litigation – leaving validity of the voters’ voice in a proverbial purgatory.