Earlier today, the Arizona Supreme Court clarified a key point of medical marijuana law. Specifically, the court ruled that cannabis concentrates and extracts are allowable under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).
Importantly, this decision puts to rest an ongoing legal battle over what place—if any—concentrates have in the state’s medical marijuana program.
Arizona Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling
The decision came earlier today when the Arizona Supreme Court announced its decision in the State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones case.
While that case was focused on one man’s battle to overturn a conviction for possessing hashish, it ultimately has implications for the entire state.
Shortly after medical marijuana became legal in Arizona, a legal medical marijuana patient named Rodney Jones was arrested when authorities found him in possession of hashish.
Jones claimed he was allowed to have the hash because he had a medical marijuana card. But local cops thought otherwise. And ultimately, so did the local courts. As a result, Jones was convicted. And he ended up serving 2.5 years behind bars.
His case quickly took center stage in a hotly contested debate over concentrates and extracts. Much of this debate arose because the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which was passed in 2010, did not explicitly define whether or not it included concentrates. As a result, decisions were left up to local officials.
In some cases, as with Jones, authorities believed that the AMMA did not overturn a previous law that defined concentrates and flower as two separate and distinct substances. State authorities in this camp understood that to mean that medical marijuana laws did not protect concentrates.
But on the other hand, many in the state believed that the AMMA automatically protected all forms of cannabis, including concentrates.
Supreme Court Clarifies Confusion
In many ways, this was the question at the heart of Jones’s case. An initial attempt by his lawyers to dismiss the case was overturned and he was convicted.
Then, in 2018 the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld Jones’s conviction. And it wasn’t until today that the Arizona Supreme Court changed course. It voted 7-0 in favor of Jones. And by extension, that decision explicitly defines concentrates and extracts as legal under the AMMA.
“AMMA defines ‘marijuana’ as ‘all parts of [the plant,'” the court wrote in its decision. “The word ‘all,’ one of the most comprehensive words in the English language, means exactly that.”
The decision continued: “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.”
Many in favor of medical marijuana in Arizona see today’s decision as a big step forward.
“The court got it right,” said ACLU of Arizona Criminal Justice Staff Attorney Jared Keenan. “This ruling means that qualifying patients will no longer have to fear being prosecuted for using their medicine in the most helpful form.”
He added: “This is what voters intended when they overwhelmingly passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.”
Even before today’s clarifying decision, concentrates were very popular with patients. According to the Phoenix New Times, patients purchased 2.5 tons of edibles and another 2.5 tons of concentrates in 2018.