As states or countries evaluate and make decisions about medical cannabis, be sure that you understand the legalities if you are a patient using, or looking to use, cannabis products for therapeutic purposes. One man with a valid medical marijuana card under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), Mr. Rodney Jones of Arizona, just unsuccessfully fought in an appeals case regarding his conviction of cannabis possession.
There are multiple parts of the Cannabis sativa plant that contain beneficial compounds. The plant material itself, the leaves and main stalk, has essential amino acids and is very fibrous. The plant yields flowers (or buds) which contain cannabinoids and terpenes. The plant cells produce a resin that could be likened to tree sap, which flows throughout the plant and contains terpenes and cannabinoids responsible for many of the known benefits of cannabis. As the cannabis plant matures, it exudes this resin which crystalizes into what are known as trichomes. These trichomes can be separated from the plant mechanistically by shaking the plant or through alternative means including heat. These different components are what can be combined or separated to produce the different cannabis concentrates available today including: dry leaf marijuana for smoking (flowers or ground up whole plant), concentrates (hashish or hash, hash oil, tinctures, cannabis oil, cooking oil), oils for vaping or dabbing, oils created for ingestion, topical products, and edibles.
In the court documentation, the procedural history outlines the details of Mr. Jones’ arrest for possession of a glass jar containing 0.05 ounces of hashish. Of note, Mr. Jones was charged not only with possession of an illegal drug, he was also charged on one count of possession of drug paraphernalia which court papers indicate was the jar that held the hashish. The drug possession charge resulted in a sentence of 2.5 years in prison plus 1 additional year for the possession of the “drug paraphernalia”.
In the appeals documentation, it was clear all parties agreed on the semantics and definitions that “cannabis” was the “…resin extracted from any plant of the genus cannabis…” as defined by Arizona’s criminal code. The presiding judge in the appeals court offered the opinion that, “useable marijuana is statutorily defined as “the dried flowers of the marijuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof, but does not include the seeds, stalk and roots of the plant.” The amount of medical “marijuana” allowable in Arizona is 2.5 ounces.
Unfortunately, the two sides could not agree on whether or not hashish is included in the AMMA protections. Jones argued that the hashish is a preparation of the marijuana plant and held less than 2.5 ounces at the time of his arrest. The State maintained their assertion that any mixture, derivative, or preparation of resin or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does not apply to AMMA protection. They claimed that the lack of specific inclusion of extracted resin within the existing law and that in a supreme court case ruling, hashish and marijuana are recognized as different forms of cannabis.
Mr. Jones’ conviction and sentence were upheld. Semantics and understanding of the specific edicts of your state or region regarding “medical marijuana” or “medical cannabis” or “medical cannabidiol (CBD)” matter in the eyes of the law. Mr. Jones’ unfortunate example is a case in point.
This affects some of the other medical marijuana delivery types that are used to treat children with epilepsy like CBD oil tinctures, or for cancer patients that apply topical cannabis products or consume cannabis through edibles; Olympic athletes training in AZ that vape using CBD oils are at risk as well (removed from the Olympic Committee’s banned substances list in late 2017). This ruling affects dispensary economics and medical marijuana advocacy across the state.