Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon overturned Maricopa County's zoning ordinance for medicinal cannabis dispensaries last week. The decision is viewed as a victory for medical pot patients.
The central issue in the case is the county’s zoning ordinance that makes it impossible to open a dispensary. Judge Gordon granted a pretrial verdict in favor of White Mountain Health Center, which planned to open a dispensary in Sun City. Gordon ruled that the revised 2011 Maricopa County ordinance appeared to be a “transparent attempt to prevent the implementation of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act,” which was passed by voters in November 2010.
Judge Gordon determined the ordinance was intentionally crafted in order to avoid conflicts with the federal government’s stance on all forms of marijuana. He also noted there isn't any available property in Sun City that fits the zoning categories currently required by Maricopa County – meaning there could be no dispensaries.
While Judge Gordon acknowledged zoning laws are necessary to protect public health and safety, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act prohibits a county from passing such an ordinance to summarily outlaw dispensaries.
Judge Gordon is scheduled to hear additional arguments from both sides as to the practical effects of his pretrial verdict this week. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he would appeal the decision.
This marks the second positive medicinal cannabis-related ruling from Judge Gordon in the last year. In December 2012 he decided federal pot prohibition does not prevent Arizona officials from implementing the state's medical marijuana law.