PHOENIX — Arizona attorneys have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the agency that regulates the state's medical marijuana program to accept applications to operate from would-be pot shops.
The Arizona Department of Health Services was supposed to begin accepting the applications June 1, but refused after the state sued the federal government over the program.
Department Director Will Humble says he won't accept applications because of uncertainty about the legality of the program, pointing to the state's lawsuit, filed in May at Gov. Jan Brewer's request. That lawsuit asks a federal judge to rule on whether Arizona's voter-approved medical marijuana law can be implemented in the face of federal law, which says pot remains illegal.
Attorneys representing would-be pot shops filed their lawsuit Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court to force the department to accept the applications.
"We were hopeful they would move forward with the program," said Attorney Ryan Hurley representing a handful of medical marijuana dispensary operators. "The only reason we're here today (Tuesday) is because they stopped us."
Hurley says the lawsuit breaks new ground.
"We've never been in a situation in which we had to compel a state department to move forward with a law that was enacted by the people."
The state continues to accept and process applications by patients and caregivers while not implementing the law's dispensary provisions.
Most of the roughly 5,100 patient applications processed as of June 9 authorize those patients to grow up to 12 plants of marijuana for their own use. Dozens of registered caregivers also can grow marijuana for their patients.
Attorneys said the legal action will likely delay the state's medical marijuana program by a couple of months.