Supreme Court: ‘All parts’ of marijuana plant protected by medical marijuana law




Photo by morgan | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that marijuana extracts sold by dispensaries and used by medical marijuana patients are legal and are covered by Arizona’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.

The case stems from the March 2013 arrest of Rodney Christopher Jones, who was arrested in Yavapai County with hashish, a popular marijuana extract. Jones had an Arizona medical marijuana card.

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office charged Jones with possession of cannabis, which it argued was barred under Arizona’s criminal laws and not protected under the medical marijuana statutes, even if someone had a medical marijuana card.

Prosecutors said the medical marijuana law covered only the plant itself, not extracts used in things like hashish, tinctures or edibles.

Jones was convicted and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. An appeals court supported Yavapai County’s argument that marijuana extracts were prohibited.

But the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that reasoning, writing that the medical marijuana act allows for the use of “all” of the marijuana plant, and that word means exactly what it says: any part of the plant, not just the flowers, can be sold by dispensaries and used by patients.


“It is a shame anti-marijuana prosecutors, including Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, were able to undermine the will of the voters for so long and throw qualifying patients in prison just because of their own aversion to and misunderstanding of a legal medicine,” ACLU of Arizona Criminal Justice Staff Attorney Jared Keenan said in a statement on the ruling.

Polk called the ruling “troubling.”

“The Court’s conclusion that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects hashish (legally termed cannabis) is akin to finding that explosives produced from fertilizer are protected by laws allowing the sale of farm products,” Polk said in a statement. “This is the difference between Advil and morphine.”

The court recognized that the law does not explicitly define extracts or products like hashish, which are defined in other state’s medical marijuana laws.

“Taken together, ‘all parts’ refers to all constituent elements of the marijuana plant, and the fact the resin must first be extracted from the plant reflects that it is part of the plant,” the court’s ruling said.

The court found the law’s intent is to “allow the manufacture and preparation of parts of the marijuana plant for medical use, including extracting the resin.”

“It is implausible that voters intended to allow patients with these conditions to use marijuana only if they could consume it in dried-leaf/flower form,” the court said.

The court also declined to hear arguments by the state that federal laws, such as the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act preempts the medical marijuana law passed by voters.

“Any medical marijuana patient in jail or prison, or being prosecuted for possessing marijuana extracts, must be immediately released and any charges must be dismissed,” Keenan said.

As of April 2019, there were 197,000 Arizona residents in the medical marijuana program. In Yavapai County, there are 9,797 medical marijuana patients, according to state data.

Last month, more than 700 pounds of “other” marijuana products were sold across the state. In total, over 13,000 pounds of marijuana was sold in the state in April.

April was a big month for marijuana in the state, likely due to the unofficial marijuana holiday of 4/20, which saw a well over 1,200 pounds of marijuana sold in the state that day alone. More than double the usual daily amount sold.

So far in 2019, more than 49,000 pounds of marijuana has been sold in Arizona.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

1 COMMENT

  1. A bit over a century ago, the federal government had just as much constitutional authority to prohibit alcohol as they do today to prohibit cannabis. They had the same supremacy clause, they had the same commerce clause. They had almost the same amendments to the Constitution — the only relevant ones they lacked were the 18th and 21st amendments.

    Despite all that, they were unable to nationally prohibit alcohol without ratifying the 18th amendment. Alcohol is about as unnatural and manufactured as hashish is — while it could theoretically occur in nature, it generally doesn’t and what does occur is impure and contaminated to the point consuming it is often a method of suicide.

    A bit over a decade after ratifying the 18th amendment, the 18th was wholly repealed by the 21st amendment, returning the state of the law and constitution on the matter of prohibiting intoxicants to where it was prior to the 18th being ratified — the federal government being unable to do so.

    So how did they get the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act passed, since it would be unconstitutional from the get-go? Simple. The 21st amendment allowed the federal government to prevent smuggling and prosecute smugglers, if an illegal intoxicant was brought across a state border into a state that prohibited it. Prior to passing the above federal Act, the feds put enormous pressure on the states to enact their own equivalents of the Act, to exploit the loophole found in the 21st amendment — as long as all states prohibited everything in the Act, the Act was constitutional on a technicality, as enabling legislation to help those states in their lawful prohibition of various things.

    The Act has been in force longer than many people have been alive. It’s part of the legal landscape. So much so that people have forgotten that its foundations rest on soft sand, not a firm grounding. So we get people insisting that the federal Act has supremacy over state legalization legislation, and they’ve either forgotten (or never knew) that while federal statutes have supremacy over state statutes, federal statutes do not and cannot have supremacy over the US Constitution.

    There’s a reason the feds will drop any case based on the Act that seems to be heading towards a court being presented with the above argument. The reason is, as soon as a court hears a challenge to the Act on constitutional grounds, regarding a state legalization statute, the court will strike down enforcement of the Act in that state.

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