Confusion, Concern in AZ Medical Marijuana Industry After Ruling Casts Doubt on Legality of Extracts

Capsules with marijuana on the fresh natural piece of wood.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) –There continues to be confusion and concern within Arizona’s medical marijuana community after a state appeals court decision cast doubt on the legality of marijuana extracts, a range of concentrated products that account for a huge swath of the industry’s sales and are popular with parents treating young children.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk praised the ruling Monday as a “sound interpretation of the Medical Marijuana Act” and said cardholders who possess extracts in Yavapai County “are subject to prosecution for being in possession of a narcotic drug, which is class four felony.”

“I think it’s clear when voters approved marijuana for medical use, they were envisioning the marijuana plant. They weren’t envisioning this sophisticated process of extracting one particular chemical and then making it available in a form that is incredibly potent,” she said.

Still, several dispensaries announced they will continue selling extracts like cannabis oil, shatter, wax and vape pen cartridges while waiting for further guidance from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Extracts account for about 45 percent of the medical sales in Arizona, two dispensary owners said.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Health Services said the agency was still reviewing last week’s decision with legal counsel “to determine whether any rule changes are necessary.”

J.P. Holyoak’s daughter was born with a rare neurological disorder called Aicardi syndrome.

picture of JP Holyoaks daughter

J.P. Holyoak uses cannabis oil to help treat his daughter. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Before cannabis, Holyoak said his daughter would have dozens of seizures a day and couldn’t stand on her own. Now, she experiences a seizure every few months and can run and play – all thanks to cannabis oil, he said.

Children with the disorder typically don’t live past 8 years of age, Holyoak said. His daughter is now 9-and-a-half.

“This ruling says she cannot receive cannabis in the only form that she is capable of receiving. So essentially these courts dealt a death sentence to my daughter and other children like her,” said Holyoak, who owns Arizona Natural Selections.

A state appeals court ruled last week that a man named Rodney Jones could be prosecuted in Yavapai County for having hashish or hash oil even though he was a medical marijuana cardholder. The court determined the medical marijuana act only applies to cannabis flower products, not extracts, based on subtleties in the wording of the voter-approved initiative.

“This sets the policy that dispensaries can sell marijuana but cannot sell the extracts,” Polk said. “What this opinion does is rein in this industry that ran under the umbrella of medical marijuana and started producing some incredibly hard drugs.”

However, Polk acknowledged much of the ground rules and enforcement would be determined by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Some marijuana businesses have argued that the Jones case doesn’t apply industry-wide.

“In Jones, a medical marijuana cardholder was in possession of ‘hashish,’ which he admitted he received ‘for free’ when ‘an employee at a marijuana dispensary in Phoenix had given’ it to him. To be clear, Jones only involves a transaction between two individuals and specifically does not address a transaction between a state-licensed dispensary and a patient,” wrote K.I.N.D. Concentrates in a statement distributed to the media.

Mike Colburn, president of K.I.N.D Concentrates and Level Up Dispensary, said the ruling hasn’t changed what they stock and sell to patients.

“This decision doesn’t change any of the rules that we were operating under,” Colburn said. “We’ve always offered medical marijuana and we continue to offer medical marijuana to patients.”


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