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

By: - May 28, 2019 11:27 am

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.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined 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. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.