PHOENIX (FOX 10/AP) - The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled medical marijuana patients are protected from arrest for possessing hashish and other pot extracts as long as they don't have more of the drug than allowed.
The unanimous decision Tuesday concluded cardholders are immunized because extracts are considered marijuana under the state's 2010 voter-approved medical pot law. The ruling reversed a lower court decision that found patients faced arrest for hashish possession because the drug isn't mentioned or included by name in the law.
The AZ Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act “extends to manufactured marijuana products using extracted resin,” the position the ACLU of AZ argued for before the justices.— ACLU of Arizona (@ACLUaz) May 28, 2019
Here's what attorney @realJaredKeenan said about the ruling: pic.twitter.com/xsJqHtFUja
The case centers on the 2013 arrest of medical marijuana cardholder Rodney Jones at a Prescott hotel on charges of possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia. Police say Jones had 0.05 ounces of hashish in a jar. He was convicted and later sentenced to two years in prison. The State Supreme Court has thrown out Jones' conviction and sentence.
Prosecutors in Arizona were known to go after patients found with cannabis extract products.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk issued a statement in the aftermath of the ruling.
The consequences of today’s Arizona Supreme Court decision allowing the sale of high-potency drugs are 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.
Since 2010 when Arizona voters approved the use of medical marijuana, the potency and variety of products have soared. Smoked marijuana has potency levels averaging 5% to 15% THC, the mind-altering chemical in the marijuana plant. Manmade hashish products, derived from the concentrated resin from the marijuana plant, have potency levels of 70% to 90% THC.
This is the difference between Advil and morphine, and it’s why the Arizona Court of Appeals found that hashish is “susceptible to serious and extensive abuse.”
Sadly, the Supreme Court rejected the Arizona Appeals Court’s common-sense reasoning and its sound conclusion that hashish is a form of cannabis, which state law defines as distinct from the dried marijuana leaves.
Indeed, it’s a difference that dispensaries promote. Their websites advertise “mind-blowing shatter,” “Papa’s OG shatter,” and “mob moss” wax. These are medicines?
Additionally, today’s ruling did not address the fact that any use of marijuana in Arizona continues to be illegal under federal law. The United States Supreme Court has long recognized that Congress controls what is medicine in the U.S., and today the Arizona Supreme Court declined to resolve the continuing conflict between Arizona and federal law.
A plethora of recent peer-reviewed studies document the link between high potency THC and mental health, specifically psychosis. Today’s ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court gives a green light to an industry constantly seeking to market and sell more potent, and thus more addictive and dangerous, products. Communities across Arizona will suffer the consequences of this ruling long into the future.
Other people are also reacting to the ruling.
Huge relief, celebration. Everyone's talking about it," said Lilach Mazor Power, CEO of Giving Tree Dispensary.
Medical marijuana patients and dispensaries have been waiting for the State Supreme Court's ruling. Until now, any form of marijuana other than the flower was not protected for medicinal use.
"It's like someone telling you can eat an orange, but it's illegal to drink orange juice. It's that silly," said Power, who went on to say that many patients prefer cannabis-based capsules or vape cartridges.
Pot cookies, gummies, and soda are also available, and OK for medical marijuana cardholders.
"They can no longer be prosecuted or arrested for using medicine that's most helpful to them," said Jared Keenan, a criminal justice staff attorney for ACLU of Arizona.
Jones' persistence following his arrest in 2013 now benefits other cardholders like him.
"If they're in jail, they should be immediately released. If they're in prison, they should immediately be released, and prosecuting agencies should dismiss the charges," said Keenan.
"I'm happy people are going to be able to come here and get the medicine that's right for them and not worry about it anymore," said Power.
Valid medical marijuana cardholders in Arizona are still only allowed to possess 2.5 oz of marijuana.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.