In an extensive ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon rejected arguments by Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery that the 2010 voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is illegal and contrary to public policy because the possession and sale of marijuana remain a federal crime.
In his ruling, Gordon pointed out that 18 states and the District of Columbia already have enacted laws permitting some form of legal marijuana use. And the judge said he wasn't about to declare Arizona's own version invalid.
"This court will not rule that Arizona, having sided with the ever-growing minority of states and having limited it to medical use, has violated public policy,'' he wrote.
Gordon acknowledged that Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act to combat drug abuse and to the control the legitimate and illegitimate traffic of drugs. That law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug for which there is no legitimate medical use.
And the judge agreed that the 2010 initiative allowing the medical use of marijuana reflects "a very narrow but different policy choice'' about the drug. But he said the fact that Arizona has a different view of the drug does not illegally undermine the federal law: Federal agents remain free to arrest Arizonans who violate that federal statute.
"No one can argue that the federal government's ability to enforce the Controlled Substances Act is impaired to the slightest degree,'' Gordon wrote.
In fact, he said, what voters approved here actually could be interpreted to support the goals of Congress in combating drug abuse.