Drug War

Brewer Regrets Letting Voters Approve Medical Marijuana, Settles for Frustrating Their Will


In my column on Wednesday, I noted that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer seems intent on undermining her state's Medical Marijuana Act, which she opposed before voters approved it in November 2010. Last week, speaking at the annual conference of the Arizona Chiefs of Police, Brewer regretted that law enforcement officials had not done more to prevent passage of the medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 203, which won by a margin of just 4,340 votes out of more than 1.7 million ballots:

I believe we all have a duty to speak with a unified voice on irresponsible ballot measures that jeopardize public safety. Proposition 203…is a good example where a unified voice might have prevented passage of this dreadful situation….Everybody should have been down there, looking at this piece of legislation and talking to people and explaining to them what the ramifications were….We didn't realize it was going to get that kind of momentum. There should have been a lot more exposure.

Brewer herself, who became governor because she was Arizona's secretary of state when President Obama picked Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, was busy trying to keep her job and did not come out against Proposition 203 until two weeks before the election. Now she is trying to defeat the law by inviting a federal judge to declare it invalid and barring the Department of Health Services from accepting license applications for dispensaries. The state has been issuing permits to users, however. So far 7,500 patients are authorized to possess marijuana and, because Brewer has blocked dispensaries from opening, they also may grow up to a dozen plants at a time. As The New York Times noted last week, various unapproved distribution operations have appeared, based on creative interpretations of the law. "In lieu of a regulated industry," one activist told the Times, "we're now creating an environment in which patients are growing their own with limited oversight, and these private clubs of questionable legality are popping up." 

Again, the contrast with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is telling. Like Brewer, he is a conservative Republican who opposed his state's medical marijuana law (which was enacted under his predecessor). But last week Christie, deeming the risk of federal prosecution minimal, announced that New Jersey will allow dispensaries to distribute medical marijuana:

I made clear during the campaign that this is not a law that I would have signed if I were governor at the time. But I also on January 19th took an oath to enforce and uphold the laws of the state of New Jersey as governor. And so despite all of the hyperbole over time from others [who criticized him for delaying implementation of the law], I have been struggling…to find a way to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish, which is to provide compassionate treatment to people who are suffering in a way that will not expose them, the operators of our dispensaries, or the employees of the state of New Jersey to criminal liability….

As a former United States attorney…I don't believe that the United States Attorney's Office in New Jersey, …given the narrow and medically based nature of our program, will expend what are significantly lessening federal law enforcement resources…on going after dispensaries in New Jersey, our Department of Health, or other state workers who are helping to implement this program….It is my belief, having held that job for seven years, that there [are] a lot of other things that will be more important as long as the dispensaries operate within the law. 

Brewer is not a former prosecutor (or a lawyer). But if she really were concerned about federal prosecution of state employees who license and regulate dispensaries, as she claims to be (despite reassurances from Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney from Arizona), she could look into the issue. She would find, as the ACLU did, that there do not seem to be any plausible grounds for bringing federal charges against state employees simply for certifying that people are complying with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and are therefore exempt from state drug penalties. (If such prosecutions were feasible, they would also apply to issuing patient permits, which Brewer has allowed even though they let people grow marijuana without fear of state prosecution.) And while it's clear the Justice Department legally could prosecute operators of state-licensed dispensaries, so far it has not done so; all of its medical marijuana cases have involved growers or distributors whose actions were not explicitly authorized by state law. The only way to test whether Obama's promises to respect state law amount to anything in practice is to proceed with plans for state-authorized dispensaries, as Christie is doing. The dispensary operators are well aware of the risk and are willing to take it. State law requires Brewer to let them.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

NEXT: Health Spending to Rise Even Faster Under ObamaCare

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  1. My theory on Gov. Chris Christie and the medical marijuana law

  2. I believe we all have a duty to speak with a unified voice on irresponsible legislation that jeopardizes public safety and personal liberty. Prohibition is a good example where a unified voice might have prevented passage of this dreadful situation….Everybody should have been at the Capital, looking at drug pohibition and talking to politicians and explaining to them what the ramifications were.

    1. Politicians always use the term ‘personal liberty’ to justify everything they do. I’m getting tired of the double-speak. Its dishonest.

    2. We have been explaining the ramifications of prohibition to them for years. They are making too much money off it to care.

  3. What is the word I’m looking for??? Cunt! Yes, that’s it!

    1. Precisely what I was thinking! I hope she dies a slow miserable death in a fire.

    2. Me three.

      1. I challenge anyone to read her wiki and tell me that you disagree that she is diagnosable mentally retarded.

        1. The “Political Career” section gives me a serious eye roll. Is it just me, or has many a destructive political animal been borne out of the “bored housewife of a rich guy” character?

          1. See, Arianna Huffington.

          2. We also have McCain here. The “bored guy of a rich housewife”

            1. Eh, I think of McCain more in the GW Bush mold of inferior son trading on his dad’s name (commanded the Pacific Fleet). And his wife inherited her riches, whereas Brewer’s husband looks like he’s self-made.

              But the point is well taken – enjoy the good life with the spouse and resist all urges to “make a difference.”

            2. Easy now…

            3. On behalf of Arizona…I apologize.

            4. Don’t forget John “Fitzgerald” Kerry. He fits the “bored guy of a rich housewife” as well.

              And Mister Pelosi.

        2. It’s so good to know liberal bigots abound too! The developmentally disabled are people too ahole. You and Brewer have more in common than you think.

  4. Mike Broomhead, radio host on KFYI here in the Phoenix area, has been pushing the line that the medical marijuana law is “big government” because it creates a new bureaucracy. That is to say, we intend to regulate marijuana as we do cars, clothes, buildings and every other tangible thing that any citizen may ever come in contact with. Based on this crack logic, I can only assume that the true small government platform in the coming election will be to ban all consumer goods.

    1. I love it when these assholes couch libertarian rhetoric in their justification for the police state. We must be gaining ground, otherwise why would they try pandering to us?

    2. This is so sad. Look at the much more radical drug law reform that Arizonans passed in 1996 (and was subsequently struck down).

      1. Oh, I know. We have approved at least three ballot measures on the issue of marijuana. Somehow, though, guys like Broomhead insist that they voters were “tricked” into supporting this initiative.

      2. It was never struck down. It doesn’t have all the effects its backers hoped for.

        1. right after that passed, Pima County would offer treatment for the 1st possession offense… You were doing jail time for the paraphernalia.

  5. She would find, as the ACLU did, that there do not seem to be any plausible grounds for bringing federal charges against state employees simply for certifying that people are complying with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and are therefore exempt from state drug penalties.

    As Sullum surely realizes, that’s not the point. The point is that this gives Governor Brewer the cover she needs to disobey the law. In return, Obama gets to improve his “tough on crime” cred while increasing the power of the federal government at the expense of state governments. Everybody wins! (Except us.)

    1. Anyone who would look at Obama’s “tough on crime cred” wouldn’t consider voting for him because of a large number of other reasons. If anything, “tough on crime” does more to hurt Obama than to help him.

  6. Boy, it must suck to be an elected officer of the law with the duty of enforcing the law when you don’t like those laws.

    What’s up with executive officers who think they are legislators?

    Brewer has not yet shot any dogs.

    1. I will say this for her: compared to our Senate President, she is the voice of reason. You see, the illustrious Russell Pearce has a habit of pushing bills that he knows are un-Constitutional or just plain dangerous, but have a plausible, popular premise. When confronted with the details, he feigns ignorance, uses his best puppy dog eyes and whines, “don’t you think we should be tough on crime/drugs/Mexicans?”

      1. And I forgot to add that Brewer and the other Republicans were able to contain much of his nuttiness this past session by voting down his dumbest ideas and vetoing several more that made it through our legislature.

  7. Dammit! Read the headline and thought we were getting a Friday afternoon beer thread.

  8. Hey, all you Arizonans,

    If the governor refuses to follow Arizona law, and she publicly disregards the will of the voters, then start a recall petition.

    1. Here’s the thing. Republicans have a big advantage in voter registration. Democrats walked right into the SB1070 (i.e. the Arizona Immigration Law) trap and failed to build their own counter-narrative. They failed to explain how and why it was a civil rights issue and why it undermined federal civil rights safeguards. When I bring up the 287g program to my fellow Arizonans, they tell me, “wow, I’ve never heard of that.”

      This means that Democrats are, for the foreseeable future, unelectable in most of the state (unless 1070 blows over and voters stop caring about it, which is possible but unlikely).

      This gives the GOP free rein to ignore the voters because they can always point to the Dems and say, “well, at least we’re not as bad as THEY are.”

      1. In my part of the state is Dems as far as I can see…

        1. You’re in one the lower two congressional districts, yes? AKA, Baja Arizona?

          1. AZ7. Home of Grijalva. I’m not proud of that though…

      2. I guess the reason for that is because you were to busy screaming racist at everyone and everything. Perhaps if you tried that tact it would have worked better but I know that 1070 does not violate anyone’s rights. It is the same f’n law as the federal law yet no one complains. That is because some people are authoritarian personalities and the idea that state taking on the role that the federal government does is wrong. I’m accusing anyone who opposes states enforcing immigration yet allowing federal to do so as authoritarians. That includes you.

        1. Tim.
          You don’t know me or my politics. FUCK OFF.


        2. Local law enforcement can enforce federal law. So long as they obey they law themselves, including section 287g of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The purpose of SB1070 was to do an end-run around 287g and the civil rights protections it was meant to afford. It may or may not technically hold up to Constitutional scrutiny, but it is an attempt to subvert civil rights protections.

          Of course, the law does not mention its intent. The bill itself seems completely innocuous on its face, which is why it was so popular. It’s a perfect Democrat-eating trap.

          I explained all of this upthread in more general terms.

  9. The same thing is happening in Michigan, except our law was passed overwhelmingly.

  10. in arizona, we dont want our white women orgyin w black jazz musicians

    1. We are in agreement here.

  11. Oh you poor little people, voting for big ideas that you’re surely too innocent to understand… As your Governor, I’ll do my self-inflated duty and reject any mesures you’ve endorsed. Can’t have any disobedience to our superiors in Washington, D.C.!

  12. Brewer is not a former prosecutor (or a lawyer).

    At least she has this going for her.

    1. Which is nice.

  13. Yo fuck you Brewer.

  14. Jeez she hates the fact that the people have free will and can vote and make descions on thier own, and that she has to follow people restating thier rights, oh poor poor brewer what a F’ing Cunt

  15. I don’t know what everybody else is thinking, but the declaratory judgement that is being sought will go a long way toward legitimizing state med mj proposals.

    What I don’t get is why activists haven’t promoted med mj programs run by the police, which are fed-proof. The only problem I can see is activists saying, eww, eww, police!

    1. Actuallly, one of the two previous votes to leagalize MM would have done just that. The DPS wanted no part of it.

      1. So it failed to pass? Or it’s in effect but not administratively implemented (yet)?

  16. The most terrifying part of the story is Brewer’s wish that the cops had been more involved in stopping the law. The police, whose job it is to enforce all laws, period, have no business whatsoever participating in the political process.

    1. Why isn’t their input valuable? In sports governing bodies, the officials give well-considered input as to the modification of rules, because they foresee ease or difficulty of administration.

  17. Well, she is losing and she knows it. Gov. Christie caved and so shall she. Mark my words we will have dispensaries before the year is out.

  18. As the silverfish and the cockroaches gnaw and eat away at the glue, so the politicians, in their bungling and grasping way destroy the fabric of logic and civility that holds human intercourse together. Beslimed by the ordure of political expediency and dumb to boot, this vacant-headed anthropoid belongs to the class of statists and collectivist that have managed to turn the United States into a roiling mess.

  19. “Brewer regretted that law enforcement officials had not done more to prevent passage of the medical marijuana initiative…”

    OK, so police are *supposed* to lobby against bad laws. That is good to know, and worth keeping in mind when we hear the argument that the police are simple public servants carrying out the orders of the voters.

  20. While it was certainly not her intention, by delaying the DHS dispensary plans she may have actually helped patients. The dispensaries would have been distributed across Arizona in a way that would have prevented patients from growing their own marijuana. Patients would have been trapped in another monopolistic, high tax, high price scheme. Instead Brewer’s lawsuit now allows every patient to grow their own at a reasonable cost. http://www.facebook.com/note.p…..5345174937

  21. OK, boys and girls. Your political lesson from AZ Republican right wingnuts is you can play by the rules, do everything by the book, get a majority of the vote several times AND STILL THE STATE WILL DO WHAT IT WANTS, THWARTING THE WILL OF THE VOTERS TIME AND TIME AGAIN. Shame on us for allowing ourselves to be pushed around by idealogues of the far right !

  22. Jan Brewer is only interested in upholding the law when it suits her narrow right wing agenda, Get over it Gov; but no matter, you’ll be gone in the next election.

  23. Gov. Brewer wants to prohibit marijuana, and I suppose Gov. Stoner wants to prohibit brewing. To each her own.

  24. I have been in pain since I was I vietnam in 1969 aqnd 1970. It has gotten worse ove the years. when this come to be I got my card and some pot and I do it 2 or 3 times a week at night and stay home. Ho I all so have PTSE for the same thing. It has helped me a lot I was takejng 34 pills a day now Im dowm to under 29 so has it. What do you think. Im not doing anyone any harm and Im not going to stop.

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