Appalling Appellate

Egregious ruling provides opportunity for Arizona cannabis community to unite


An Arizona Court of Appeals ruling rattled the medical marijuana industry late June, leaving patients and dispensaries alike in confusion over the legality of concentrates in Arizona.

Given concentrates' versatile application in so many products available at dispensaries and their principle role in measuring standard doses, a potential ban seems unthinkable to many in the industry. Yet here we are.

The case targets forms of cannabis "separated" from the leafy, green plant material with such misguided understanding of the relation between cannabis and extracts that the judges believed the Arizona Legislature intentionally differentiates between the two due to "the great potency" of concentrates, rendering them "susceptible to serious and extensive abuse."

Again, the Reefer Madness has taken hold of at least a couple more ignorant minds.

What does that "serious and extensive abuse" look like now that dispensaries have been in full swing for six years?

It's children who use tinctures, administered by their parents, to reduce the frequency of seizures, or to treat rare debilitating conditions. It's cancer patients who find smoking harmful or require salves to treat their disease.

Codeine and Oxycontin are also susceptible to serious and extensive abuse," but we still let the nation get away with an opioid epidemic that actually has a death toll. At least "serious and extensive abuse" of cannabis leaves you with a pulse.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act specifically legalizes "any mixture or preparation" of the cannabis plant, but the judges seem to interpret that as the ability to grind up flower for brownies, even though no one in the industry makes edibles that way anymore.

The disappointingly THC-free icing on this shake cake is that the judges "cannot conclude that Arizona voters intended" to legalize anything but the flower of the cannabis plant.

The fact that two men can hijack the will of hundreds of thousands of Arizona citizens is an embarrassment to our state and our government. These men were not elected to make this decision. They do not speak for the people of Arizona.

That leads us to a clear-cut case of statutory construction the likes of which haven't been seen since John Marshall nabbed judicial review for the Supreme Court in 1803. There are rules to this kind of thing. Rules that have been studied a long time. And there's no doubt these judges broke those rules.

However mounting the consensus that these guys got it so wrong, there's no telling when the issue will be fixed. In the meantime, several dispensaries have released statements contesting that the court's ruling does not apply to the products they sell and determinedly maintain their ability to sell concentrates.

The Arizona Dispensaries Association has put together a legal defense fund for patients and dispensaries.

The subject of the case, Rodney Jones of Yavapai County, a medical marijuana patient who got picked up for a small amount of "hash" in a jar, plans on appealing the case to the Arizona Supreme Court, where many believe it will be overturned.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is currently reviewing the decision and has said it does not affect its rules.

The Phoenix Police Department and the Tucson Police Department have said they are not increasing enforcement as a result of the ruling at this time, but TPD acknowledged that anyone using concentrates at this time is at risk of getting charged.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk's celebrated the decision with the claim that it "rein[s] in this industry that ran under the umbrella of medical marijuana and started producing some incredibly hard drugs."

Despite the fearmongering and the rule of men, Arizona's cannabis community must stand up to this gross injustice. Be smart and discrete with your consumption, but don't let the pious weirdos regulate your health the way you see fit.

This is a chance for Arizona patients and dispensaries to stand united against what surely isn't the last fight against tyrannical government.

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