Are Marijuana and Cannabis the same thing when it comes to Arizona Law? The short answer is maybe not- and the distinction may be an important one for Qualified Medical Marijuana Patients in AZ.
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act provides qualified patients and dispensaries a number of legal protections under the voter approved Act. Interestingly, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act definition of “Marijuana” in A.R.S. § 36-2801(8) differs from the Arizona Criminal Code’s definition of “Marijuana” in A.R.S. § 13-3401(19). In addition, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act makes a distinction between “Marijuana” and “Usable Marijuana” A.R.S. § 36-2801(8) and (15).
The definition of “Marijuana” in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is: “… all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.” The definition of “Usable Marijuana” is “… 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 and does not include the weight of any non-marijuana ingredients combined with marijuana and prepared for consumption as food or drink.” The “allowable amount of marijuana” for a qualifying patient and a designated caregiver includes “two-and-one half ounces of usable marijuana.” A.R.S. § 36-2801(1).
The definition of “Marijuana” in the Criminal Code is “… all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis, from which the resin has not been extracted, whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.” “Cannabis” is defined as: “… the following substances under whatever names they may be designated: (a) The resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus cannabis, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant, its seeds or its resin. Cannabis does not include oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any fiber, compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the mature stalks of such plant except the resin extracted from the stalks or any fiber, oil or cake or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination; and (b) Every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such resin or tetrahydrocannabinol.” A.R.S. § 13-3401(4) and (20)(w).
This distinction is an important one for medical marijuana patients and dispensaries. This week the AZ Court of Appeals in State v. Jones held that a medical marijuana cardholder was in possession of “hashish”, which he received for free when an employee at a marijuana dispensary in Phoenix had given it to him (the Act specifically allows for gifts of this size between patients). The case involves a transaction between two individuals and doesn’t address a transaction between a dispensary and a patient.
The court held that hashish is a resin extracted from the marijuana plant and therefore is Cannabis as defined in the criminal code. The case begs for an appeal. It doesn’t mention concentrates or vape cartridges, and it states that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects patients in possession of allowable amounts of mixtures or preparations of medical marijuana… but it does call into question what protections patients have for what substances as well as what kinds of products are allowable for sale at dispensaries.
I expect to see the Arizona Supreme Court quickly take up the case (and soon), as the ruling certainly needs to be resolved quickly- and only the Arizona Supreme Court is in the position to make the final call.
It’s too bad that a patient had to spend a year in jail for this issue to be resolved.