Author Topic: Medical Marijuana Is Legal In Arizona–But This County Attorney Still Prosecutes Patients  (Read 380 times)

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Filter by Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard April 11, 2019   

Living in Yavapai County, Arizona, a jurisdiction smack-dab in the middle of the Southwestern state, Rodney Jones obtained a medical cannabis card in 2012, two years after the passage of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) legalized use for medical purposes.

In March 2013, he was arrested after being found in possession of 0.05 ounces of hashish, a resin extracted from the cannabis plant. A grand jury indicted him for possession of a narcotic drug and drug paraphernalia—meaning the mason jar in which the hashish was carried.

Jones argued that his hashish was authorized by his AMMA card. The jury disagreed, and he was sentenced in September 2016 to a total of three-and-a-half years in prison. After an appeal, and a similar conclusion in June 2018, his case arrived in the Arizona Supreme Court.

Oral arguments were conducted in March of this year, and now Jones’s case awaits the state Supreme Court’s opinion, which could determine whether cannabis extracts like hashish are covered by AMMA.

And the stakes are high: Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery (pictured above) and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk—two staunch opponents of AMMA—are leading the charge to prosecute medical marijuana patients, using an anomaly in state laws.

Currently, Arizona’s Criminal Code makes a “weird, antiquated distinction between cannabis and leaf marijuana,” said Jared Keenan, an ACLU of Arizona criminal justice staff attorney, in an interview with Filter. Possession of marijuana—which is defined in the Code as all parts of the plants “from which resin has not been extracted”—is chargeable with the lowest type of felony (Class 6), while extracts, like resins, are defined as “cannabis” and carry harsher punishments (a Class 4 felony). Yet according to the text of AMMA, both substances bifurcated by the Criminal Code are covered.

Additionally, a judge for the Maricopa Supreme Court found in 2014 that AMMA’s “decriminalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes includes extracts adapted from marijuana.” The case was filed after Montgomery threatened to prosecute Zander Welton, a five-year-old boy with severe epilepsy who was using marijuana extracts to improve his condition after two surgeries could not. The judge’s ruling extends only to Maricopa County. So why is Bill Montgomery still prosecuting these patients?

“Montgomery needs to know if the defendant is a patient, or Montgomery is violating state law.”

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