In a unanimous ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court on May 28 found that cannabis resins and extracts are protected by the state’s voter-approved 2010 medical marijuana law.
Writing for the court in State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones, Vice Chief Justice Robert Brutinel stated that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) “defines marijuana as including ‘all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not.’ Consistent with this language, we hold that AMMA’s definition of marijuana includes both its dried-leaf/flower form and extracted resin, including hashish.”
Outlining the various ailments listed under the law, Justice Brutinel added: “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. Such an interpretation would preclude the use of marijuana as an option for those for whom smoking or consuming those parts of the marijuana plants would be ineffective or impossible. Consistent with voter intent, our interpretation enables patients to use medical marijuana to treat their debilitating medical conditions, in whatever form best suits them, so long as they do not possess more than the allowable amount.”
The ACLU of Arizona was enthused by the decision, tweeting: “The court got it right. Today’s ruling means that qualifying patients no longer have to fear being prosecuted for using their medicine in the form most helpful. This is what voters intended when they passed the AZ Medical Marijuana Act.”
Justice Delayed for Rodney Jones
As Phoenix New Times reports, the decision means people who hold medical marijuana cards can legally use THC-laced edibles, tinctures, extracts or resins derived from the plant. Both patients and retailers had been in suspense for nearly a year, since the state Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Rodney Jones for possession of hashish.
Jones, an African American man who was an approved patient under the state medical marijuana program, was nonetheless busted at a Prescott hotel in March 2013, when police responding a noise complaint found a minuscule 1.4 grams (0.05 ounces) of hashish in a jar in his backpack. Prescott is in Yavapai County, one of two in the state that refused to recognize resins and extracts as covered by the 2010 law. The other county, Maricopa, was basically forced to abandon this position in March 2014 after the County Superior Court ruled in favor of 5-year-old Zander Welton, finding that his parents and physicians could resume treating his epilepsy with a cannabis extract. Welton’s family brought the case to challenge the county policy. But Yavapai County attorneys held that the Maricopa County decision was not binding statewide.
Shortly after the Welton decision, Jones was sentenced to two and a half years. (He’d already been on probation for a 2012 cannabis conviction, with “attempted involving [of] a minor.”) Jones, now 27, served the full 30 months on the charge, finally being released in mid-2017.
The Supreme Court ruling now voids Jones’ conviction — and the sentence, even though it was already served.
Removing the Legal Sword of Damocles for Others
Even if retroactive justice for Rodney Jones is basically the moral victory of vindication, the fight he waged removes a proverbial Sword of Damocles that was over the heads of many medical users in Arizona.
AZFamily.com spoke to the family of one young patient who will be affected by the ruling. Jordyn Pinkowski, at the age of 3, obviously cannot smoke or vape. Yet she suffers from a debilitating condition that causes seizures and has been taking two different cannabis extracts to stay well. “When you see your child suffering, you will do anything, anything, to make it stop,” said Bethany Pinkowski, Jordyn’s mother.
Now, for Arizona residents, that won’t have to include breaking the law.