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Arizona Supreme Court: Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) Protects Possession of Marijuana Extracts

Unanimous decision vacates the Arizona Court of Appeals ruling in State v. Jones

On May 28, 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled unanimously that “hashish” is like any other part of the cannabis plant, thus protecting medical marijuana patients’ access to ointments, suppositories, edibles, tinctures and other resin-extracted products under the AMMA.

The decision vacates the Arizona Court of Appeals' June 2018 ruling in State v. Jones. The case involved the arrest and conviction of Rodney Jones, an Arizona medical marijuana card holder, for possession of 0.005 oz. of hashish. Mr. Jones served two-and-a-half years in prison.

Rodney Jones and Tina Dancer

 

Rodney Jones with Sacks Tierney paralegal Tina Dancer at a June 19, 2019, meeting of the Arizona Marijuana Industry Trade Association.

 

Interpreting the AMMA’s definition of “marijuana,” the Court referred to the Act itself and dictionaries.

Hashish is widely recognized as “‘the resin extracted’ from the marijuana plant.” Pursuant to Arizona’s criminal code, cannabis is defined as “[t]he resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus cannabis, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant, its seeds or its resin,” and “[e]very compound manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such resin or tetrahydrocannabinol.”[1]

See: State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones | Sacks Tierney's Marijuana Business Law practice

Sacks Tierney attorneys Janet Jackim, Gaye Gould and Phil Rudd filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Background

On June 26, 2018, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that a card-carrying medical marijuana patient can be prosecuted criminally for possessing a small amount of hashish.

Citing State v. Bollander[2], the Court of Appeals reminded the parties that the terms “hashish,” “cannabis” and “marijuana” are afforded different treatments under Arizona law.

In State v. Jones, the Court of Appeals ruled that the protections afforded qualifying patients who possess or use medical marijuana under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act are limited to a mixture or preparation of the marijuana plant.[3] “Mixture or preparation” means the combining of marijuana with non-marijuana elements to make “consumables” such as brownies and the like.[4] The Court found that the AMMA does not immunize hashish, nor does it address hashish.

In September 2018, attorneys for defendant Rodney Jones filed a Petition for Review with the Arizona Supreme Court. In January 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court accepted review of the appeal.

Sacks Tierney Amicus Curae Brief. On February 20, 2019, Sacks Tierney attorneys filed the aforementioned amicus curae brief on behalf of doctors Gina Mecagni Merman, M.D., Jeffrey A. Singer, M.D., The Society of Cannabis Clinicians, David J. Casarett, M.D., M.A., and James B. Adams, Ph.D., who, among other evidence, advised the Supreme Court that scientific and medical studies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already establish that cannabis and cannabinoids benefit patients dealing with a variety of illnesses and symptoms.

The medicinal effect, these doctors stated, is in the cannabinoids of the resin, which must be extracted from the plant. By excluding resin from the immunity provisions of the AMMA, the lower Court erroneously limited the use of medical marijuana to smoking dried flowers which, for many patients, is an inappropriate treatment application.

 

[1] A.R.S. § 13-3401(4)

[2] 110 Ariz. 84, 87 (1973)

[3] A.R.S. §§ 36-2801

[4] A.R.S. § 36-2801(15)

 

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