Wait a Minute, Isn’t Marijuana Illegal?

November 29th, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

I get this question a lot from folks.  While Congress has determined that it’s illegal to distribute and sell marijuana, several states have passed laws authorizing the distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes.  Arizona will likely be the 15th state to do so if the election is certified today (November 29).  So, in some states it’s OK by state law but still against federal law.

To address this conundrum, the US Department of Justice produced guidelines for federal prosecutors for states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The memo provides clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. Basically, it provides uniform guidance to focus federal investigations and prosecutions in these States on core federal enforcement priorities.  In one sentence in the memo, it says:  …“As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

The memo goes on to say that the prosecution of people with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. On the other hand, prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the USDOJ.

So there you have it.  Normally, I’d try to boil this down a little bit more, but I think I should leave it right there (since I’m just a health official, not a lawyer).



  1. Chad Fuentes says:

    Mr. Humble

    I will start by saying this website/blog is a great way to stay connected. I have read over Prop 203 several times and have a few issues that I think should be considered when implementing the first draft.

    1) Why were nurse practitioners left out? They have all of the same prescribing rights as MD’s and DO’s in this state. They have more rights than a naturopathic physician. Many pain centers, who will likely be providing many referrals, are run with the help of NP’s. Many pt’s have a better relationship with their NP than their MD.To me it does not make sense to leave them out.

    2) When applying for a dispensary certificate a physical address must be provided. This would likely require all applicants to lease a building before applying or to at least have one held under a deposit. This would likely tie up 1000’s of store fronts. They would then have to hold them for up to 90 days before finding out if their application was approved. This would be costly to applicants and for other entities wanting to rent building spaces. I would like to see each applicant submit a general area/zone and be required to provide the exact address within 30 days of approval for a the dispensary.

    Just a couple things I came up with. Good luck to you and your team.

    Chad Fuentes
    Pham D

  2. Jay says:

    good news for patients who will use medical marijuana!

  3. David Sambol says:

    Mr. Humble- I am writing this in an open forum because i am concerned and disgusted. I really hope that I am wrong and my suspicions are unfounded but i am a believer that where there is smoke there is fire…I have heard from A NUMBER of different, unassociated people (in 2 states) that this application process is a facade and that the large majority of the dispensary licenses (especially in the “prime” area of Maricopa County) are already designated for certain individuals. I have heard that these people- whether through connections, donations or some other underhanded means have secured the assurance that they will be awarded licenses in April. If this is true it makes me sick. There are a number of well intentioned scrupulous Arizona citizens who want to open dispensaries for the right reasons. I really hope that these people get the chance. If the bif money ends up controlling the industry in AZ we all lose. The way the prop was written already caters to these interests—124 dispensaries equals VERY LIMITED COMPETITION. Can’t grow at home within 25 miles FORCES PATIENTS TO BUY…it’s actually criminal. The best thing we can hope for now is that well-intentioned people have an opporutnity and some of this big money is kept out. Let’s do this right in AZ and remember it’s for the patients! If it’s true that assurances have been metted out it will be very apparent when we see that these same people who have been mentioned and are already advertising to come pay them and they walk you through the process- or are charging $250 for a class that prmoises to tell you “the secrets” to approval or are saying they know that 30% of the approvals will be people in their program…at that point it will be something for the attorney general to look into…PLEASE PLEASE make this process transparent and give EVERY qualified AZ applicant a fighting chance- not just the guy with $12,000,000 in investment money (yup he’s out there) or the people in CA who “know” they are approved…or the guy who donated $100,000 to secure his spot…again this is all unconfirmed stuff that’s been heard by many of us on the street- but the questions have been raised. PLEASE DO THE RIGHT THING and design this process with integrity and sensibility. Thank you very much!

    • Will Humble says:

      Mr. Sambol,
      I assure you that no one at this point has been guaranteed a license, and we are not holding spots for anyone..we do not even have the rules written yet, our team here at ADHS is still working on them. We have not promised anything, and are not affiliated with anyone in any way shape or form..there isn’t any inside information to be had, the public knows as much as we do at this point..everything that you see on our webiste (www.azdhs.gov) and in our blog is what we know, and it is the same information that the public has..no more than what we have publicy put out there..I can’t stress enough that there are NO SECRETS… I assure you that when the time comes to apply for a license, the process will be fair and everyone will have the same shot at obtaining one. Please visit our website and sign up for automatic email updates, this will send you an email when any new information comes in. Thanks so much for your input, it is sincerely appreciated!!

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