One Small Step for Treatment

The march of cannabis progress continues as a Maricopa County judge sides for a child with epilepsy

Let them eat cake, she said, and while you're at it, let them dab wax and chug sodas and drip tinctures under their tongues.

She is Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper, and those weren't her exact words, but last week Cooper issued yet another court slap-down to Maricopa County Attorney William Montgomery in a lawsuit over marijuana extracts. These were Cooper's exact, joyous words about the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act:

It makes no sense to interpret the AMMA as allowing people with these conditions to use medical marijuana but only if they take it in one particular form. Such an interpretation reduces, if not eliminates, medical marijuana as a treatment option for those who cannot take it in plant form, or who could receive a greater benefit from an alternative form ... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the AMMA authorizes qualifying patients to use extracts, including CBD oil, prepared from the marijuana plant.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the parents of a Phoenix boy, Zander Wellton, who said they have a right to treat his epilepsy with extracted cannabidiol oil, but it goes far beyond CBD oil. I've been smoking cannabis for years, and I hate it in almost every way. Having legal, easy access to things like oil for a vape pen or tinctures to take with my morning coffee is a big deal for me, and there are thousands of patients who are in worse shoes than me.

Just a few days after Cooper ruled in the Arizona case, the journal Neurology published an analysis by neurologists concluding that there is "strong evidence" that marijuana extracts can help with pain and spasticity in MS patients, but little evidence that smoking marijuana does. That's a real medical journal publishing real research from real doctors saying we need extracts, not just smoked flowers.

When you dig into the legal nuances of the ruling, you see the clear misunderstanding (or willful disregard) Montgomery has for this law. Every word of every statute has meaning, including the word "preparations" in this law, so you can't really pick and choose which words to pay attention to, Cooper wrote:

... the drafters included the phrase 'and any mixture or preparation thereof.' These words expand the allowable manipulation of the plant. To conclude that patients can only use unmanipulated plant material would render the phrase meaningless. Basic statutory interpretation prohibits such a result. Each word and phrase is given meaning.

Perhaps the most pointed rebuke in the ruling is Cooper's answer to Montgomery's claim that the AMMA prohibits coaxing chemicals out of marijuana. Cooper practically said "Um, no it doesn't."

... (Montgomery) contends that there is a "prohibition on concentrating the chemicals in the marijuana flower" in the AMMA. (Response, p. 10.) Where? The Court finds no such "prohibition" in the statute.

And the ruling makes moot a discussion about the differences between the AMMA and the criminal code. The criminal code clearly states extracts are illegal ... but the AMMA protects qualified patients from prosecution under that code. So, now it's off to the races. I suspect oils, tinctures, drinks and all sorts of other goodies will be on dispensary shelves before the end of the week, as it should be.

I think most folks in the cannabis realm expected this ruling, eventually. I think Bill Montgomery, Tom Horne and Gov. Jan have lost every court case they've brought or defended concerning the AMMA. There are several still pending, so I suspect we will see more defeats for the state.

We can only hope.

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