The Supreme Court of Arizona is going to decide whether marijuana extracts, including hashish, are covered and therefore legal under the state’s medical marijuana law. A lower court found that the extracts were not covered, and this appeal followed.
Back in 2010, Arizona voters approved the law legalizing medical marijuana. The result of the voter referendum was codified, and the statute contains specific definitions, including the definition of “marijuana.” A.R.S. 36-2801(8). That section says that marijuana includes “all parts” of the cannabis plant. And under A.R.S. 13-3401(4), “cannabis” includes resins extracted from the plant, and any compound or mixture of the resins or of THC. Many assumed that the issue of hashish was adequately covered by the very wording of the law, which does not carve out any exceptions for extracts, including hashish, all of which seem to fall within the category of a “part” of the cannabis plant.
Man Arrested for Possession of Hashish
Possession of hashish remains a felony under Arizona law, unless, of course, the substance is covered under the medical marijuana law and the possessor holds a valid medical marijuana card. In 2013, Rodney Jones, who held a medical marijuana card, was arrested for possession of a trace amount of hash, and spent a year in jail awaiting trial, then was convicted. An appeal followed, and the court upheld the conviction. The case is now scheduled to be heard by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Plain language aside, the case also points out the harshness of a law that would create a felony out of possession of an extremely small amount of a drug that most Americans feel should be legalized. In this case, the amount possessed was about 3 ten thousandths of a pound. It also sheds light on the inherent unfairness of a bail system where freedom depends upon the size of your wallet.
What’s Really at Issue in the Case?
While the case appears to be about splitting hairs over statutory language, the proponents of the conviction do not seem to be legal scholars engaged in some esoteric argument over wording. We think you will find that the argument in favor of limiting meaning of the phrases “all parts” and “any compound or mixture” are the same people who opposed, and continue to oppose, legalization of marijuana, including medical marijuana. They include at least one pharmaceutical company marketing synthetic cannabinoids; and the prison industry, which delights in having more people in jails and prisons.
What all this points out is that money appears to be a significant issue, behind the scenes, in the legal argument.
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