Arizona Court of Appeals Ignores the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in State v. Jones

Cannabis PlantThe Arizona Court of Appeals yesterday decided State v. Jones in a perplexing 2-1 decision that appears to ignore the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”).   Defendant Rodney Jones was a registered qualifying patient under AMMA allowing him to possess under 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.  Despite having a valid medical marijuana card, he was arrested and charged for possessing a jar containing 0.05 ounces of cannabis resin known as hashish.  Notwithstanding the fact that he was a medical marijuana patient, he was convicted for possession of a narcotic drug and drug paraphernalia.  Mr. Jones was sentenced to 2.5 years of prison–for that 0.05oz jar of marijuana resin.

Judge Thompson, writing for the majority, distinguished the resin extracted from the marijuana plant as different from marijuana itself.  What is particularly frustrating with the Judge Thompson’s decision, is that it is based on old court cases decided prior to AMMA.

Obviously, as a defense attorney, I might be biased when it comes to decisions affecting a defendant’s rights.  However, I believe this decision is objectively bad in that it appears to run contrary to the law put in place as a result of AMMA memorialized in Title 36, Chapter 28.1 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.  Specifically, AMMA defines marijuana as “all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.”  It does not exclude resin.  To nonetheless conclude that marijuana resin should be excluded from this definition, a definition that only applies to AMMA patients, seems like an exercise of judicial activism.  The majority seems to impose its own political belief system on what it felt the law should be.

Judge Jones dissented reasoning that AMMA’s definition of marijuana includes all parts of the marijuana plant.  I am at least appreciative that one of the judges got it right, but unfortunately, majority rules even on a 3-judge panel that is the Arizona Court of Appeals.  I am hopeful that Judge Jones’ dissent provides some guidance for the Arizona Supreme Court to review and reverse the majority’s decision.

You can read the full opinion here: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/0/OpinionFiles/Div1/2018/CR16-0703%20OP.pdf

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