Local officials cannot use federal laws outlawing marijuana to refuse to provide necessary zoning for dispensaries, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
In their unanimous decision, the judges acknowledged the federal Controlled Substances Act makes the possession and sale of marijuana a felony. And they noted that the zoning sought by White Mountain Health Center was specifically to be able sell the drug from a shop in an unincorporated area of Sun City.
But Judge Donn Kessler said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery had no legal basis to claim that federal law trumps the 2010 voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. And he also rejected Montgomery’s contention that having county officials issue the required zoning would mean they were aiding and abetting in the violation of federal law.
The fight has its roots in the 2010 initiative that allows those with a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued ID card to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. That law also set up a network of state-regulated privately run dispensaries to sell the drug.
Before issuing a permit for a dispensary, state health officials need certification from the local government that the site is properly zoned. White Mountain Health, seeking to locate in Sun City, sought the necessary certification from Maricopa County.