Justice is Met – Arizona Supreme Court Follows Plain Language of Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in Overturning Court of Appeals

Court GavelEarlier this week the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the Arizona Court of Appeals decision upholding the conviction of Rodney Jones, a medical marijuana patient who was convicted for possessing marijuana resin.  I previously wrote on this blog about the State v. Jones decision and criticized the Court of Appeals’ majority opinion for failing to apply the plain the language of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) that defines marijuana as “all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.”  See ARS Section 36-2801(8).  As a result, it seemed contrary to the intent of AMMA to convict a medical marijuana patient for possessing a 0.05oz jar of marijuana resin.

The Court of Appeals majority decision was largely criticized.  A flood of amicus briefs were written by various entities explaining why the decision should be overturned.  Apparently, even some prosecutorial agencies no longer backed the decision.  The Arizona Attorney General’s Office who argued the case to the Court of Appeals pulled out before it was time to argue the case to the Arizona Supreme Court. When the Arizona Supreme Court finally issued its decision, it was no surprise that the Court unanimously overturned the Court of Appeals.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s unanimous decision is very straight-forward and it almost seems like the Court was surprised by the Court of Appeals majority decision below.  I appreciate that the Arizona Supreme Court did not leave too much up for debate as it relates to medical marijuana patients.  The very first paragraph of the decision cites AMMA’s definition of marijuana including all parts of cannabis, which means it has to include both the leaf form as well as extracted resin including hashish.  The Arizona Supreme Court stresses the word “all” as being such a comprehensive word.  Even though Title 13 (Arizona’s criminal code) creates a distinction between the forms of marijuana, AMMA makes clear that marijuana in all forms by patients are protected.  The Arizona Supreme Court did a good job applying the plain language of AMMA to immunize patients from prosecution for the possession of marijuana in any form so long it was within the allowable limits outlined in AMMA.

You can read the full opinion here: https://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/0/OpinionFiles/Supreme/2019/State%20v.%20Jones%20Opinion.Final.pdf

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