This past Friday, Maricopa County filed a petition with the Arizona Supreme Court to bypass the Court of Appeals and have its appeal of the recent medical marijuana decision go directly to the high court.

The petition is the latest response of the government to the decision, reported in our blog of December 14, 2012, upholding the constitutionality of the state’s medical marijuana law. The factual basis of the case involves the refusal of the county to provide a zoning letter which would complete the licensing process for a medical marijuana dispensary. The legal issue, in a nutshell, is whether the Medical Marijuana Act is pre-empted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, under which marijuana is an illegal Schedule I drug. The dispensary sued the county for refusing to supply the zoning letter, and the Superior Court ruled that federal law did provide the county with a basis for its refusal. More than 30,000 individuals are already in possession of medical marijuana cards permitting them to use the drug in Arizona.

Readers may recall that medical marijuana was approved by state voters in 2010, but full implementation has been stalled as a result of the county’s efforts to challenge its legality.

The lower court ruling upheld the constitutionality of the Arizona law, concluding that although possession and sale of pot is illegal under federal statutes, nothing in the United States Constitution prohibits the state from making choices, on a policy level, that are different that those set forth in the Controlled Substances Act. Accordingly, the decision went on, the state scheme does not undermine federal law.

Note that the current petition seeks one, and only one ruling – that the Supreme Court of Arizona accept the county’s appeal directly from the trial court. The basis for the petition is that the issue in the case is of great public importance. While it can be hazardous to make predictions on this level, some might guess is that if the petition is denied, it may be an indication that the Supreme Court is not likely to disturb the existing ruling. We don’t know if that’s accurate, but we do believe that medical marijuana is here to stay, both in Arizona and in the other states that have already approved, and in some cases, implemented, such laws.

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