Yesterday we briefly went over the legal battles being fought to protect medical marijuana in Arizona; as a supplement to this we have today an exclusive interview with attorney Ryan Hurley, who is in the thick of it all.
Attorney Ryan Hurley, of the Rose Law Group, is representing the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association and is involved in both the state and federal marijuana lawsuits. Hurley spoke to 420petition about his fight and its importance to the national marijuana reform landscape:
420petition: Could you briefly describe the Don’t Let Medical Marijuana Die Campaign?
RH: This is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to raise funds and awareness to fight the legal battles for MMJ in AZ.
420petition: What is the situation in Arizona in a nutshell?
RH: Essentially the AZ Governor has decided not to implement the will of the voters but rather to file a lawsuit in Federal Court seeking a determination about the legality of AZ’s MMJ law in light of the illegality of MMJ under Federal Law. Essentially the lawsuit asks the Federal Court to determine whether the two can co-exist or if the state law is preempted and invalid.
420petition: What are the key elements of the State lawsuit?
RH: The State lawsuit has been filed because one of the most likely outcomes of the Federal lawsuit is a dismissal on procedural grounds. In this scenario there is some concern that the AZ Governor will refuse to implement the MMJ law because she did not get an answer from the Federal Court. If this occurs the State lawsuit is necessary to compel the Governor to implement the law and carry out the will of the voters.
420petition: What are the key elements of the Federal lawsuit?
RH: The key element to the State’s Federal lawsuit is the question of Federal preemption. This is a central tenet of our Federalist democracy, which basically says that if the Federal Government has jurisdiction over a matter and chooses to pass laws or regulations they would supersede and pre-empt a State’s jurisdiction to regulate the same subject matter. So in the example of AZ’s MMJ law, the Governor has stated that because MMJ is still illegal Federally she needs to know whether that preempts AZ’s law.
420petition: How is that case unique and what does it means for medical marijuana nationally?
RH: The Federal suit represents the very first time that the question of pre-emption has been asked directly in Federal court. This is why it is so important. A negative outcome in this case (i.e. a ruling that Federal law preempts and invalidates AZ’s MMJ law) has direct consequences for every MMJ law in the country. Particularly if this ruling is upheld on appeal it would apply to (and therefore invalidate) every State MMJ law in the entire western half of the Country.
420petition: What would you say are the biggest constitutional barriers to the actions of governors and legislatures seeking to overturn the will of the people on the marijuana issue?
RH: The biggest barrier to this type of Federal lawsuit is Article III of the US Constitution which requires an actual “case or controversy” before a Federal court has jurisdiction. In other words a State Governor cannot simply ask a Federal Court for an advisory opinion on what the law is. Rather a Federal Court can only make a ruling if there is a concrete set of facts and an actual case with adversarial parties to rule on. In the case of the AZ Federal lawsuit, it very much seeks an advisory opinion because the law has not yet been implemented. Because of this we are hopeful that a Motion to Dismiss will be successful
420petition: Elaborate a little on the efforts to keep cases away from the Supreme Court. How about AG Holder’s promise to clarify things?
RH: One of the biggest concerns in this case is that we fail on the motion to dismiss and the case rises to the level of the Supreme Court. Under the current make up of the SCT I think it is highly likely they would rule against State MMJ laws.
420petition: Finally, just briefly, how do you personally feel about your role in this fight?
RH: I feel fortunate to work in such an interesting and groundbreaking area of the law. However every time I see a sick patient suffering unnecessarily I am frustrated that our system works so slowly and that there is such a potential for the wrong outcome.
420petition wishes to thank Mr. Hurley for giving us some of his time and for his commitment to justice and the democratic process. We hope that his efforts are successful and urge our readers to stay informed about this key legal battlefront and help him save medical marijuana.
Disclaimer: These opinions and statements made in these posts are solely the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinion of 420 Petition and its parent company.