The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) came to life in 2010 making Arizona an early player in the medical marijuana industry. In 2013 an Arizona medical marijuana patient named Rodney Jones was arrested for possessing what Arizona courts and police refer to as hashish. They are using the term hashish to describe all concentrates derived from the marijuana flower whether it be cannabis oil for vaping or extracts for dabbing like shatter or wax.
The Arizona medical marijuana law specifically states that the legal consumption of cannabis involves “the dried flowers of the marijuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof, but does not include the seeds, stalks, and roots of the plant …” On the surface that is a pretty broad definition that should cover basically anything derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. The problem is another law in Arizona that states that “cannabis, a narcotic drug” is illegal to possess.
Since 2010 lawyers have been playing the two laws off of one another creating a conflict that is now getting national coverage. In 2014 a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that the wording in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act made all cannabis derived products legal for qualified patients during a case involving a young boy with epilepsy that was using the extract to reduce his seizures. In the Rodney Jones case though the judge decided that the 2014 ruling did not set a precedent and that since the AMMA does not specifically define cannabis extracts as medical marijuana, the preexisting law is still adopted.
It is unfortunately a case of semantics where the law does not clearly outline the differences between cannabis, marijuana, extracts or hashish when they are all virtually the exact same thing. Rodney Jones has been sentenced to two and half years in prison and the judge ruled he has already served 366 days of his sentence. It is also a case of lawmakers not doing their job properly in clearly defining medical marijuana laws and leaving patients vulnerable to litigation. In 2010 there were not many states yet with comprehensive medical marijuana laws to reference, but there has been ample opportunity to go back and restructure the law.
Throughout the country medical marijuana laws vary considerably which leaves people across the country confused about what is permissible by law for cannabis consumption. There are now 30 states that have medical marijuana programs after Oklahoma voters approved a medical cannabis program this year. Apparently Arizona only wants to allow patients to smoke marijuana flower, but states like Florida have banned all smoking of cannabis and patients can only access cannabis oils for vaping. A small handful of states and Washington D.C. will accept the medical marijuana cards of out-of-state patients while most prohibit anyone but in-state patients from consuming cannabis.
It would come down to federal law ultimately creating a universal medical marijuana law across the country. However, the one bill in Congress that seems to have the best chance of passing and ending the prohibition on marijuana is the STATES Act since it has support from both republicans and democrats. The President has even expressed that he would back the bill. The STATES Act is built around the idea that each state would create its own cannabis laws. In the meantime, the social injustice of the prohibition of cannabis is taking another year and half of Rodney Jones life and cannabis companies throughout Arizona do not know what to do with all of the extracts they have on their shelves.