The Foundation

The American Council for Patient Liberty is a bipartisan organization that believes individuals have the right to determine the best methods of treatment for their ailments and cannot be considered criminals for choosing one medicine over another. We embrace the spirit of these principles dealing with State Rights and self-governance in matters where citizen-backed initiatives have been passed into law:

  • Reduce federal spending on the failed drug war
  • Medicine cannot be destroyed unless it is tested and determined dangerous by a third party
  • Enable state-licensed facilities to use all “normal” IRS deductions and banking facilities

Federal Preemption

It is our position that the reason the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to fight the drug war under the U.S. Department of Justice is because of a disturbing trend in the Federal government where agencies want to replicate the behavior of “growth” companies. If a company like Google goes public, it must show continuous growth in terms of revenue, net income, and earnings per share on a periodic basis. New products that increase revenue or new efficiencies that reduce spending often result in promotions and better salaries for those responsible. Similarly, promotions must keep occurring within bureaucracies and this only occurs if additional hiring and spending increases.

By removing a program from federal control, a reduction in personnel and spending would naturally take place, but this would hurt the political ambitions of many a bureaucrat. Any conservative that is touting so called “federal preemption” in matters dealing with the Controlled Substances Act cannot say that they are for a smaller Federal Government. It is contradictory to the very nature of states’ rights and is a blot on the “don’t tread on me” principles embodied in the DNA of Barry Goldwater’s Arizona. It is also dangerous because usurping a voter-backed law using federal preemption using the judicial system could cause long-standing duties of the State to fall into the hands of the Federal Government:

  • Federal preemption in Immigration laws – See Example
  • Federal preemption in Healthcare – See Example
  • Federal preemption in Mergers & Acquisitions – See Example

The beginning of the Patient Liberty movement

In 1996, the voters of Arizona passed Proposition 200, Arizona Use or Possession of Controlled Substances, on the ballot with a 65% majority or 872,235 votes. The measure was measure endorsed by senior former U. S. Senators Barry Goldwater and Dennis DeConcini. It promoted states rights by allowing physicians to prescribe controlled substances to patients with serious illnesses if they were licensed to practice medicine in the state of Arizona. The proposition was then overturned by the Arizona State Legislature using three bills (H.B. 2475, S.B. 1373, and H.B. 2518). The voters had won but democracy had lost.

The Fight Goes On

In 1998, the voters of Arizona defeated Proposition 300, Medical Use of Drugs, which would have grown the power of the Federal Government tremendously by requiring authorization from the Federal Food and Drug Administration or the United States Congress for the medical use of marijuana before it could be lawful for doctors to prescribe Schedule I drugs. However, in 1998, the voters of Arizona passed Proposition 105, the Voter Protection Act, which would forever prevent the Legislature and Governor from reversing the will of the voters. At this point, the patient liberty movement had been severely stifled by the bills that had been passed by the legislature before the passage of the Voter Protection Act. The next step was in 2002, when a medical marijuana card registration system was on the ballot with The Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act (The first Proposition 203). However, severe negative campaigning by the opposition combined with alow voter turnout resulted in the defeat of the measure.

The Feeling of Democracy

In November 2010, the second incarnation of Proposition 203 was put forth before Arizona voters on the ballot. Hours after the polls closed, the outcomes of several races was clear including the slim victory of now Attorney General Tom Horne against his opponent, Felicia Rotellini. It was not until two weeks after the polls closed that the results for Proposition 203 were clear. The measure had won with 841,348 registered voters in Arizona exercising their right to participate in a democratic process.

Proposition 203 was to become law riding the waves of democracy after rising over walls of barriers put forth by a few who sought to stifle the rights of many. A registry system for the seriously ill was to be created, and only one dispensary would be allowed for every 10 pharmacies in the state of Arizona allowing only 126 dispensaries. This would curtail the outbreak of “pot shops” that had begun to outnumber Starbucks coffee stores in California and Colorado. Governor Janice K. Brewer signed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act into law on December 14, 2010. The Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services set forth a path to implement the law as was required of his office within 120 days of implementation. The wheels were in motion and the Arizona Department of Health Services began accepting applications for patient and caregiver cards on April 11, 2011.


On May 24, 2011, 7 days before the dispensary application program was to open, Governor Brewer halted the implementation of that portion of the program and sued the Federal Government in an attempt to get clarification on the legality of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Several prospective dispensary applicants had invested tens of millions of dollars collectively in leases and use permits, and every municipality in Arizona had enacted zoning ordinances to manage the placement of dispensaries in their jurisdictions. What happened next was one of the biggest travesties in regulatory history. The state had been issuing patient and caregiver cards which authorized the cultivation of medical marijuana, with thousands of individuals being granted a status of Authorized to Cultivate on their ID cards. Unlicensed “compassion clubs” and “caregiver collectives” began to operate statewide and patients with no agricultural experience had to learn to grow marijuana in their homes and be put at risk of break-ins due to the high street value of the medicine. Homes with grows that were located near schools and churches were not subject to any separation or ventilation requirements. There were several raids and arrests during this time and many lives were ruined.

In January 2012, the case in federal court was dismissed and Governor Brewer allowed the Arizona Department of Health Services to resume the dispensary program.


Throughout the dispensary application process, it was common knowledge among applicants that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery simply would not allow any dispensaries on unincorporated county land. His argument was that federal law preempted state law and all Maricopa County employees were advised not to participate in the medical marijuana program. One dispensary applicant, White Mountain Health Center Inc., chose to submit an application to the Arizona Department of Health Services without a zoning approval from Maricopa County. The Arizona Department of Health Services marked the application as incomplete and a lawsuit soon followed (Maricopa County Superior Court CV2012-053585). This gave the Attorney General and Maricopa County Attorney a conduit to strike back at the medical marijuana program. Prior to the dispensary certificate allocation by the Arizona Department of Health Services, Tom Horne announced that federal preemption was still an issue that he was interested in pursuing based on formal requests from Sheila Polk and John Kavanagh.

On August 23rd, 2012, Tom Horne and Bill Montgomery filed separate motions for summary judgment on the basis of federal preemption in Superior Court. This case can determine be used to determine federal preemption for every dispensary in Arizona.

Winning the Medical Battle

The first Arizona dispensary opened in December 2012 and there are now almost 100 dispensaries operating statewide as of November 2016. Twenty six states within the Union now embrace some form of Patient Liberty. The movement is a success.