The Department of Justice filed on legal brief on Monday that indicated the federal government would not prosecute state employees for implementing state medical marijuana programs, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
The brief asks for a lawsuit filed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) to be thrown out.
The governors of Arizona, Rhode Island and Washington have refused to implement medical marijuana laws because they fear criminal prosecution by U.S. Attorneys.
"The State of Arizona has worked to follow the wishes of voters,” Brewer said in May after putting the state's medical marijuana program on hold and filing a lawsuit against the federal government.
Proposition 203, which allows patients in Arizona to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, was passed by a majority of Arizona voters in 2010.
"But I won’t stand aside while state employees and average Arizonans acting in good faith are unwittingly put at risk," Brewer added. "In light of the explicit warnings on this issue offered by Arizona’s U.S. Attorney, as well as many other federal prosecutors, clarity and judicial direction are in order."
Brewer did not publicly state her opposition to the law, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said Brewer was seeking a ruling that the Arizona law is preempted by federal law and should be struck down because it is in conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act.
"By taking the highly unusual step of challenging her own state's law, Gov. Brewer is undermining the will of Arizona voters and unconscionably seeking to prevent thousands of sick Arizonans from being able to access important medicine," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. "People should have the freedom to choose the medicine their doctors believe is most effective for them."
Attorney Lisa Hauser, who authored the state's medical-marijuana law, agreed with the ACLU's assessment. She said the lawsuit was intended to strike down the new laws, but that Brewer did not want to take a position because she feared upsetting the voters.
The Department of Justice said Brewer's claims had no merit, noting that her lawsuit failed to provide credible evidence that state employees were under threat of imminent prosecution.