CULTURE DIGEST: Governor challenges marijuana law

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jun 03, 2011 5:52 PM
CULTURE DIGEST: Governor challenges marijuana law
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has directed the state's attorney general to file a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment from a federal court regarding the legality of a medical marijuana law approved by voters last fall.

The U.S. attorney for Arizona informed state leaders in a May letter that because the federal government considers marijuana a controlled substance, anyone who grows, distributes or possesses the drug -- even in light of the new state law -- could face federal prosecution.

"For the state employees charged with administering the medical marijuana program or the Arizonans who intend to participate as consumers, it's important that we receive court guidance as to whether they are at risk for federal prosecution," Brewer said May 24.

The governor particularly is concerned about state employees who must issue dispensary licenses and qualified-patient registration cards. If a federal prosecutor were to decide that such activities are contrary to federal law, state employees may be subject to prosecution, the governor's office said. Medical marijuana also presents uncertainty for state law enforcement.

"We are deeply frustrated by this announcement," Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said. "The law Gov. Brewer wants enjoined established an extremely well thought-out and conservative medical marijuana system. The law was drafted so that a very limited number of non-profit dispensaries would serve the needs of patients who would be registered with the state."

Arizona became the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana last fall. Proposition 203, as it was known, trailed by nearly 7,000 votes the day after the election but ended up winning by a margin of 4,341 out of more than 1.65 million votes as updated tallies were released.

Before the election, Brewer joined county sheriffs and county attorneys in every Arizona county in opposing Proposition 203, citing in part the cost of the initiative during tight economic times.

"We simply cannot afford to serve as an experiment by outside interests to ultimately seek the legalization of drugs," Brewer said. "Arizona taxpayers cannot -- and should not -- bear the cost of creating an environment in which the use and availability of marijuana will needlessly and harmfully proliferate."

Brewer noted that in other states that have passed similar measures, only 2 to 3 percent of marijuana patients have serious illnesses, most marijuana cardholders are under 40 and a large percentage are teenagers.

COUPLE SEEKS 'GENDERLESS' BABY -- It's not that a particular Canadian couple refused to tell people the gender of their baby until its birth. They've chosen not to tell people its gender even now that it's four months old.

Kathy Witterick and her husband David Stocker have caused a stir by dressing their baby, named Storm, in gender-neutral clothing and telling people they have no intention of revealing whether the child is a boy or a girl.

"We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now -- a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...)," the couple wrote in an email to friends.

The couple has two older children, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, and though the children are boys, they are allowed to dress like girls when they want.

In response, people have said the parents are selfishly turning their children into a bizarre social experiment. But the couple is undeterred, insisting they'll allow Storm to determine his or her own gender.

"What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It's obnoxious," Stocker said.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said the controversy surrounding Storm is a sign of the times.

"Our rebellion against our Creator has now reached the point that we will deny the fact that our identity is not just our own personal project but is first of all established in the Creator's intention -- and part of that intention is the fact that we are male or female," Mohler wrote on his blog, albertmohler.com, May 24.

The decision about gender, Mohler said, is not made by parents but by God, and the objective reality of Storm's gender eventually will become a public issue such as when the child must decide which restroom to use.

"The major issue at stake in this controversy is the objective reality of sex and gender. We are, in fact, what our genitals tell us we are," Mohler wrote. "This is not because we are genitally determined but because we were created by a holy God whose plans and purposes for us are, inescapably, tied to our gender.

"Gender is not merely a socially constructed reality. When the Southern Baptist Convention modified its confession of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message, in 2000, it added language that defined gender as 'part of the goodness of God's creation.' Some observers wondered why that language is important," he wrote. "Now, you know."

TEN COMMANDMENTS COUNTIES NOW OWE ACLU -- Two Kentucky counties that have fought for 12 years to place copies of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses now owe a total of $456,881 to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky for its work in challenging the displays, which were ruled unconstitutional.

A judge in May awarded another $23,366 in attorney fees and costs to the ACLU, though neither county has a way to pay the bill. McCreary County, a relatively poor county, has nothing extra in its budget and the judgment was not covered by the county's insurance policy, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Officials in Pulaski County thought they might seek help from Liberty Counsel, the Christian legal group that represented the counties through years of legal wrangling, but Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said he doubts people who supported the fight to post the Ten Commandments would want to donate money that would go to the ACLU.

The counties could appeal at least part of the award, or they could seek to negotiate a lower settlement, the newspaper said. Residents have threatened to sue the counties if taxpayer funds are used to pay the bill.

The case began in 1999 when officials in both counties hung framed copies of the Ten Commandments in Somerset and Whitley City, and the ACLU and some residents sued. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the displays in 2005, saying the motive for posting the document was clearly religious. The counties continued to appeal, hoping a more conservative court would side with them, but the high court this year decided not to take the case again.

"The ACLU is committed to ensuring these judgments are enforced to deter future violations of civil liberties," William Sharp, an ACLU attorney, said.

Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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