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Medical Marijuana Laws in Arizona

An interesting July 2nd ruling by Judge Richard Fields has everyone talking about the legality and moral implications for medical marijuana patients selling their marijuana to other patients. If the ruling stands, this particular decision has the potential to create many different opportunities for Arizonans to sell their marijuana legally.

The Case of the Medical Marijuana Patient Selling to Other Patients

In October, Jeremy Allen Matlock was indicted on three felony counts of growing and selling marijuana. Matlock was a licensed cardholder at the time of his indictment, and was cooperative with law enforcement. His public defender, Sarah Bullard, argued for dismissal of the case because Matlock had broken no laws by selling his marijuana.

The voter approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act allows patients to sell marijuana to other patients because it states “a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for various marijuana related offenses. On the other hand, the AMMA gets vague in the next paragraph where it says: qualified Arizonans can’t be prosecuted “for offering or providing marijuana to a registered qualifying patient or a registered designated caregiver for the registered qualifying patient’s medical use or to a registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary if nothing of value is transferred in return and the person giving the marijuana does not knowingly cause the recipient to possess more than the allowable amount of marijuana.”

Whew, what a mouthful! The long sentence and lack of punctuation led to many different interpretations of the laws. Judge Field says the law could be taken two ways. The way the Pima County Attorney’s Office reads the law means patients and caregivers can’t sell/give their marijuana if anything or value is transferred, but Matlock and Bullard argued “nothing of value” pertains only to patients selling to dispensaries.

The Verdict for Patients Legally Selling Marijuana

Lucky for Matlock, Arizona has another law that states if the law can be interpreted in more than one way that the more lenient interpretation is awarded to the defendant. Judge Fields ruled that the law implies that medical marijuana patients are able to sell to other patients. Additionally, to obtain a conviction the state must prove not only was something of value transferred between the two parties, but that it ALSO knowingly caused the recipient to obtain more than the total allowed amount of marijuana. Without both of these, a conviction is difficult.
Judge Fields dismissed the entire case, on the grounds that law just wasn’t clear enough. Enjoy the vagueness while you can because after all this controversy, clarification is surely on the way.

The Irony of the Arizona MMJ ProgramBack in November 2010, amid some controversy with the count, the voters of Arizona approved by a slim margin the use of cannabis as medicine. With few details delineated, they entrusted their representatives with the fine print.

For almost two years we the people have endured the political leaders of our state delaying and questioning and petitioning the law’s effect.

 Last week, the Arizona Department of Health Services successfully held the long awaited lottery to decide which applicants can move forward with the opening of the first 99 of 126 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

 In 2011, Governor Jan Brewer initiated dialogue with the federal government to ensure legal safety for state employees issuing medical marijuana licenses to dispensaries and patients. This was seen by many as the governor’s way of reversing the vote or, at the very least, of delaying the impact of the new law. This, at a time when not one public employee has been implicated in a Federal Controlled Substances Act court case.

 Now, we are hearing from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne who announced his intentions to file an injunction to keep legitimately selected dispensaries from operating. In our opinion, those in glass houses should hesitate to throw stones.

 Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has also started to threaten filing felony charges against anyone cultivating, handling, distributing, selling, or using (without a card) cannabis. Ironically, Montgomery claims his warnings are aimed only to protect citizens’ “personal liberty”, a ridiculous notion that suggests revocation of freedom upon expression of other forms of freedom. Even more humorous is the notion of a county attorney prosecuting his own constituents for violations of federal law!

 It seems no one of the top rung of Arizona’s political ladder has been too thrilled about the AMMA since its passage in 2010. Here’s to hoping for good news! And congratulations to all the dispensary drawing winners — we look forward to supporting you!

It’s 2012 and many in the medical marijuana community are gearing up for a politically historic year and one filled with Cannabis Cups.

Arizona has seemingly been left out of the celebrations, what with the numerous federal lawsuits and legal stalling from our dear Governor. All of the hullabaloo surrounding the legalization of marijuana for medical patients within the our borders has served to not only frustrate the voters, but also delay medical care for our sick and create even more bad press for an already embattled (and boycotted) state.

When unfortunate events occur, there is always an opportunity to turn things around. Our ray of sunshine may just lie in a little thing called a Cannabis Cup.

California has been holding annual cannabis celebrations for years. Then Colorado followed.  Now, it seems Michigan has jumped aboard.

The Scoop on Medical Cannabis Cups

Cannabis Cups are wonderful events that serve a myriad of positive goals for both the cannabis community and the public at large. First, let’s talk education.  Providers of medical marijuana and its associated products come together to compete for distinguished “best of” titles. The main event consists of growers vying for the prestige of being officially recognized for cultivating the finest strains across various categories. With the presence of these agriculturists come all other corners of the medical marijuana industry: caregivers, lawmakers, spokespeople, the arts, co-ops, apothecaries, schools, growing equipment, and an impressive assortment of clever and effective delivery methods. With the representatives from the entire community present, there is tremendous educational opportunity. New patients and recreational users might discover the real laws of use instead of abiding by rumors. Children and non-users might identify ways of responsible use and ailments that are eased through the administration of marijuana. Veterans of the cannabis movement will have their passion for legalization rekindled and find enlightenment on all the technological and political advancements.

Along with this education comes the knowledge of safe access. Current and future users know which local businesses they can support and trust to supply the relief weed brings responsibly and lawfully. And good business is good for everyone.

Will We See a Medical Cannabis Cup in AZ?

If Arizona’s Cannabis Cup is presented professionally and respectfully of those who don’t necessarily agree with us, the cause may enjoy some good PR. And we all know good PR and tourism coexist. If we can “get it right” we have the potential to enjoy years of a prosperous state economy propped up by a new source of tax dollars and a resurgence of tourism money. Arizona is poised to be a model for other states looking to follow suit and a beacon of hope for those suffering with cannabinoid-curable diseases.

We Arizonans cannot be afraid to start small. Though the Department of Health Services is only beginning to revisit licensing, we know there are many local marijuana-related businesses eager to organize and promote an event like a Cannabis Cup. The Medical Marijuana Movement truly is a grassroots undertaking.  As such, we at The Arizona Dispensary are calling on our neighbors and partners to join us in showing the world what a great place Arizona really is!