Eighteen states (including Arizona) and the District of Columbia now allow for medical use of marijuana. The medical marijuana laws of these states are in direct conflict with federal law, however, as the Controlled Substances Act prohibits the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana. This has created an incongruous situation in which an individual may be using medical marijuana in compliance with state law but is concurrently violating federal law, and thus exposing him or herself to federal prosecution. While the U.S. Department of Justice stated in a 2009 Memorandum to U.S. Attorneys that federal prosecutors should generally not focus their resources on “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” prosecution is still a real possibility.
It is yet to be seen how the federal government will respond to the state laws authorizing and regulating medical marijuana use, but if in the meantime you would like to learn more about the constitutional law issues raised by these laws you can read through the recent Congressional Research Service report “Medical Marijuana: The Supremacy Clause, Federalism, and the Interplay Between State and Federal Laws.”
To learn more about the Medical Marijuana Program in Arizona check out the Arizona Department of Health Services webpage.