MMJ patients in Arizona still face years in prison for modifying their weed
Marijuana extract is not marijuana, the court says.
PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona court has ruled that medical marijuana patients can still face arrest when in possession of hashish because it isn’t mentioned or included by name in a voter-approved pot initiative passed in 2010.
The Arizona Court of Appeals handed down the decision Tuesday in the case of Rodney Jones, a cardholder in the state’s medical marijuana program who was arrested in March 2013 at a Prescott hotel and indicted on a count each of cannabis possession and drug paraphernalia possession.
Police said at the time they had found Jones had 0.05 ounces of hashish in a jar, according to the appeals court ruling. After spending a year in jail, Jones waived his right to a jury trial in the case. He was later convicted and sentenced to more than two years in prison with credit for time served.
In his appeal, Jones had sought to have his conviction and sentence overturned by the court. But two of the judges on the three-member appeals court panel rejected his request, saying that the state’s medical marijuana act approved in 2010 “is silent” on hashish.
“If the drafters wanted to immunize the possession of hashish they should have said so,” the ruling said. “We cannot conclude that Arizona voters intended to do so.”
Hashish is a resin extracted from cannabis plants, and it is often used in oils and other medical marijuana products that are a part of the nation’s burgeoning, multibillion pot market.
The ruling had found that hashish is recognized under state law as a narcotic distinct from marijuana by the Legislature because of its potency levels.
Jones’ attorney did not immediately return a call requesting comment Wednesday.
Sarah Mayhew, who represented the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice in supporting Jones in the lawsuit, said the parties would appeal the case to the Arizona Supreme Court.
“There are several things in this ruling that are just flat-out wrong,” said Mayhew, also an attorney in the Pima County Public Defender’s office.
She said the court had sought to apply marijuana and cannabis definitions in the state’s criminal code to the language drafted by medical marijuana advocates in the 2010 ballot initiative.
Voters had approved the medical marijuana act in order to provide broad protections to people seeking to access pot for medicinal reasons, she said.
By taking this step, the court narrowed the intent of the voters, Mayhew argued.