Would-be marijuana dispensary owners and their lawyers filed lawsuits today in an attempt to reverse Governor Jan Brewer's attack on a voter-approved law.
Last month, Brewer directed state Attorney General Tom Horne to file a federal lawsuit against the new law, which voters narrowly passed in the November election.
Horne admitted to New Times last week that our "inference" was correct that he directed Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble to begin denying applications for dispensaries. The DHS had been set to begin accepting the applications on June 1.
Media reports state that one of today's lawsuits was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court by the Rose Law Group on behalf of prospective dispensary companies, including Medzona Group and Serenity Arizona. The state has no legal grounds to halt the dispensary applications, claims Ryan Hurley of the law firm.
The DHS, however, hasn't been served on that one, says DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley. She pointed us to a blog post written by DHS director Will Humble about a different lawsuit filed in the Arizona Court of Appeals. The appeals court hasn't yet posted the case on its website; we'll provide the link when we get it. (For you pot policy wonks, Oxley says the case number is CA-SA11-0161.)
As our post last week mentioned, the federal lawsuit by Brewer and Horne seems geared to appease the high-powered group that campaigned against the measure. Carolyn Short, leader of Keep AZ Drug Free, met with Horne in January and discussed the possibility of filing a federal lawsuit on the premise that state workers might be held legally liable for administering the medical pot program.
In response to one of our questions, Horne told us last week that the federal suit is not a continuation of Short's campaign:
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"I have a long record, going back at least to 1997, of opposing actions to thwart the will of the voters, even if I am on the other side of the substantive issue," Horne wrote in an e-mail.
Still, Brewer and Horne are now in the position of being defendants in a lawsuit intended to make the state abide by the terms of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and they're also the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that thwarts the law.
While Horne and former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, one of Short's allies, tell us that "plaintiff" is simply a legal term required to launch their federal lawsuit, the word still captures their role correctly as adversaries of the wishes of voters.