Arizona Medical Marijuana Update

A bill that would overturn some Arizona county attorneys’ interpretation of medical marijuana law to exclude concentrates — which lead sheriff’s deputies to arrest and jail cancer patients — made its first move Feb. 20, 2019, out of a House committee for legal review on.

HB 2149, would expand the definitions of marijuana and cannabis to be the same as defined in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) to include extractsconcentrates, and any other derivative of the plant. Extracts include ediblestincturesvape pens, oils, waxes, and shatters.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk was the first to interpret the law to mean that anyone buying extracts from a dispensary can be charged with a felony.

One of the first patients charged, Rodney Jones, sued the state when he was arrested and jailed for possession of 0.05 ounces, or 1.4 grams, of hashish and drug paraphernalia. Oral arguments for the case, State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones, are scheduled for the state Supreme Court on March 19, 2019. He had been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail. Arizona dispensaries will continue to sell extracts, pending the court’s ruling.

Republican Rep. Tony Rivero introduced the bill to clear up confusion across the state and give medical marijuana users peace of mind, according to Demitri Downing, founder and executive director of the Marijuana Trade Association of Arizona. The group facilitates business development and networking for members, as well as advancing pro-cannabis policy advocacy.

“It’s exciting to see it pass the House committee and go on to the House Rules Committee,” Downing said. “It’s a real step forward to fix the definition of marijuana. The industry has operated the same, but it means more to the patients who wouldn’t have to worry about being prosecuted in certain counties. If it passes and becomes law, it solves a problem and allows for a safer, calmer community to do business in.”

Mikel Weisser, executive director of Arizona’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said the move is encouraging after years of any marijuana legislation being a nonstarter in the state.

“I’m expecting that we’re going to have a real battle when we get to the Senate,” Weisser said. “I’m going to do all I can to advance public pressure on the legislators to vote yes.”

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