Arizona Supreme Court Stops Harshing Medical Marijuana's Mellow
In 2010, Arizona voters legalized medical marijuana. Since then, one local prosecutor has made it her life's mission to throw legal medical marijuana cardholders in prison.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk took it upon herself to decide that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), which defines marijuana as "all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant," meant that medical cardholders could only have pot flowers, leaves, and seeds. Not edibles, not extracts, not hash, not vape juice, not topical ointments — despite the fact that all of these things come from cannabis resin, which is undeniably a part of the plant.
Based on the arguments she makes against marijuana, it seems like Sheila Polk's main source of information is Reefer Madness. Or maybe Jeff Sessions.
Despite her crusade to keep sick people from their medication because pot is icky and bad, Polk has refused to state publicly whether she has ever smoked pot. We're sure she refuses to answer that question because she has totally never hit a joint.
Rodney Jones is one of nearly 200,000 Arizonans with a valid medical marijuana card. In 2013, he was stopped by police who found 0.05 ounces of hash in his car. Unfortunately, this went down in Yavapai County, which charged him with possession of narcotics.
Mr. Jones was sentenced to and served 2.5 years in prison. For having 0.05 ounces of hashish. For reference, that's about a thimble-full of hash.
Last year, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld Jones's conviction. Medical users and dispensaries feared this case could destroy the medical pot industry in Arizona, since concentrates are a major part of the dispensary business (not to mention safer than smoking pot in many cases).
Despite the appellate court's decision, dispensaries continued to sell and medical users continued to purchase pot in all its forms.
Both dispensaries and patients, in a flagrant display of civil disobedience, completely ignored the appeals court ruling, continuing to manufacture, sell, purchase, and consume vape cartridges, infused sodas, anti-pain cream, dabbable shatter, and other products with THC extracts.
Civil disobedience for the win!
This year, the case went up to the Arizona Supreme Court — and Polk continued her ridiculous crusade. Even Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich withdrew from the case and filed a brief supporting Jones, but Polk was not deterred.
The Phoenix New Times did a great job of summarizing some of Polk's more ridiculous arguments:
Sheila Polk sure put the "mad" in Reefer Madness with her recent filing in the highly important cannabis concentrates case now under review by the state Supreme Court.
The pot-hating prohibitionist prosecutor, now serving her fifth term of office as Yavapai County Attorney, actually compares products containing cannabis extracts to "explosives."
Her February 1 filing in the all-important Rodney Jones v. State of Arizona case also makes the scientifically illiterate claim that "chemicals" in plants aren't really part of plants, they're "entirely different substances."
Polk got her ass handed to her in oral arguments, when the Arizona Supreme Court justices called her out on her absurdity.
[Chief Justice Scott] Bales said reading the law the way Kreutzberg does would mean edibles and extracts are illegal, which would be irrational.
"… it would force people to use the least effective way of obtaining the therapeutic effects that are thought to be associated with cannabinoids," Bales said.
Bales also took issue with Kreutzberg attributing to the voters knowing the differences between cannabis and marijuana in 2010.
"It's hard for me to see how you can attribute to the voters an intent to preserve a broad prohibition on cannabis and only permit a more narrow definition of marijuana when the AMMA itself has a broader definition," Bales said.
Thankfully, reason prevailed (which is rare in Arizona), and the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously reversed Mr. Jones's conviction and ruled that the state's medical marijuana law "includes both its dried-leaf/flower form and extracted resin, including hashish."
The court's reasoning, unlike Sheila Polk's, was based on logic, and our old friend, the dictionary.
AMMA defines "marijuana" as "all parts of [the] plant." § 36-2801(8). The word "all," one of the most comprehensive words in the English language, means exactly that. See Flood Control Dist. of Maricopa Cty. v. Gaines, 202 Ariz. 248, 252 ¶ 9 (App. 2002). "Part" means "an essential portion or integral element," or, as relevant here, "one of the constituent elements of a plant or animal body." Part, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/part (last visited May 20, 2019). 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 also noted that AMMA was clearly intended to include resin extracts when it was on the ballot in 2010.
AMMA appeared on the 2010 ballot as Proposition 203. The accompanying ballot materials stated Proposition 203's purpose was to "protect patients with debilitating medical conditions . . . from arrest and prosecution" for their "medical use of marijuana." Ariz. Sec'y of State, 2010 Publicity Pamphlet 73 (2010), https://apps.azsos.gov/election/2010/info/PubPamphlet/english/e-book.pdf. Proposition 203 was intended to allow the use of marijuana in connection with a wide array of debilitating medical conditions, including "cancer, glaucoma, . . . amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, [and] agitation of Alzheimer's disease," including "relief [from] nausea, vomiting and other side effects of drugs" used to treat debilitating conditions. Id. 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.
Medical and civil rights advocates, as well as people with compassion and pot lovers everywhere, celebrated the decision.
*NEW* The court got it right. Today's ruling means that qualifying patients no longer have to fear being prosecuted… https://t.co/0ONhMkyMK6— ACLU of Arizona (@ACLU of Arizona)1559063174.0
Friendly reminder that county attorneys are elected officials. Does anyone else find it troubling that… https://t.co/Y7GYZSPn0Y— Marilyn (@Marilyn)1559072593.0
The reign of terror is over "Supreme Court Rules Extracts Legal - Five experts weigh in" on @Arizonamonthly… https://t.co/q4zDd0xS8B— AZ-NORML (@AZ-NORML)1559108941.0
Sheila Polk, on the other hand, threw a hissy fit and used taxpayer money to send out a press release to once again compare legal medical marijuana to bombs.
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.
Props to the Arizona Supreme Court justices, all of whom saw through Polk's bullshit. No matter which Arizona medical cardholders are in, they're finally free to treat their medical conditions without fear.
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