WASHINGTON -- A federal judge on Wednesday threw out Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's complaint against her state's voter-approved medical marijuana law.
The complaint filed in May sought a judgment on whether state officials administering Arizona's medical-marijuana programs could be at risk for federal prosecution.
Brewer filed the complaint along with state Attorney General Tom Horne, claiming a letter from the former Arizona U.S. attorney suggested state officials could face prosecution.
U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton dismissed the complaint without prejudice, ruling enforcement actions by federal officials posed no genuine threat to state officials seeking to implement the law.
"Plaintiffs," wrote Bolton "have not shown that any action against state employees in this state is imminent or even threatened." Further, the complaint did not show any state officials had been prosecuted in other states for "participation in state medical marijuana licensing schemes."
The actions of federal officials concerning other states "do not substantiate a credible, specific warning or threat to initiate criminal proceedings against state employees in Arizona" if they were to enforce the marijuana act, Bolton wrote. Even if the letters from the U.S. attorneys in Arizona or other states were interpreted as threats or warnings, a "generalized threat" is not sufficient to merit a ruling about this state law, she added.
"It's unfortunate in this incident that the federal court has basically said we have to wait for a state employee to be prosecuted or face imminent prosecution before the state's lawsuit will be heard," Brewer spokesman Matt Benson told the Phoenix New Times.
Upon filing her lawsuit, Brewer ordered all applications for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state be rejected by Arizona's Department of Health Services. Her office maintains Brewer's stance on dispensaries hasn't changed in light of Wednesday's decision.
"It is unconscionable for Governor Brewer to continue to force very sick people to needlessly suffer by stripping them of the legal avenue through which to obtain their vital medicine," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, in a statement. "Today’s ruling underscores the need for state officials to stop playing politics and implement the law as approved by a majority of Arizona voters so that thousands of patients can access the medicine their doctors believe is most effective for them."
Proposition 203, which Arizona voters passed in 2010, allows seriously ill patients to obtain marijuana with a doctor's request. Both Brewer and Horne opposed it.
Bolton is the judge who effectively gutted Arizona's immigration law, striking down a section that would require law enforcement officials to check immigration status when they have "reasonable suspicion" that individuals are in the country illegally.