A new legal interpretation of Arizona’s medical marijuana law could limit how patients are able to get their medicine.
Marijuana Possession and Distribution Restrictions
The law, passed by voters in 2010, allows patients with severe conditions to buy and possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of “useable” weed every two weeks. But State Health Director Will Humble warned on Aug. 31 that the law’s protections don’t apply to products made from THC extract.
That doesn’t mean all non-smokeable products are out. Edibles are still OK, according to Humble, but only when part of the plant is used. So a dispensary could sell cannabis buds or brownies made from non-extracted marijuana, but candies, sodas and other products made from extract are banned.
“You can produce edibles,” he said. “But you’d better make sure it’s made of ‘useable marijuana’ as covered under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and not extracts and resins.”
Humble admitted the lines aren’t always clear, and said more research by the state would be required. For example, a tea bag full of pot would be legal while the tea made from it wouldn’t – unless the tea bag were left to steep.
Medical marijuana supporters acknowledged the law doesn’t explicitly include extracts. Arizona criminal law distinguishes between marijuana, which only includes the plant, and cannabis, which also includes extracts – including hashish. The medical marijuana law legalizes marijuana but makes no mention of cannabis.
Still, attorney Ryan Hurley, who represents dispensary owners, called this definition “archaic” and said the drafters of the medical pot law always intended to allow products made from extracts.
Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest pro-weed policy group in the United States and author of the law, agreed. It was designed to allow any “preparation” of the drug, including extracts, Fox said.
“I have no doubt that the state will be challenged if it tries to exclude edible marijuana products from protection,” he said.
New Interpretation of The Pot Law
Arizona’s new interpretation of the law is sure to create a bounty of gray areas. Jeffrey Kaufman, who also represents dispensaries, said it may make a difference how the THC is extracted.
It’s illegal under the medical marijuana law to make hash or hash oil using butane extraction. Any products made from these extracts would also be illegal, whether it be lozenges, wax or other items.
On the other hand, Kaufman said, it may be perfectly legal to extract THC using a freezing and filtering process. Humble said that’s a distinction the state isn’t ready to make. Regulators will continue to examine the recipes used by various dispensaries across the state and advise owners on what they can and can’t sell, he said.
“What we’re trying to do is to let folks know to stay away from those shades of gray because it could be problematic for them,” Humble said.