There is a new wrinkle to the medical marijuana discussion. An Arizona state court judge made a declaratory ruling last week that medical marijuana can be consumed in extract form. Welton v. Arizona, CV 2013-014852 (Ariz. Sup. Ct., March 21, 2014) To get a context on what this means let’s look at what led up to this judgment.
Zander Welton is a five year-old boy who suffers from severe epilepsy and has suffered through severe seizures for most of his life. After two brain surgeries did not help Zander’s condition, his parents turned to medical marijuana. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, took a stance against marijuana extracts for medicinal use because it will impact his ability to prosecute people for using other types of extracts. Bill Montgomery said that using marijuana extracts may be a criminal felony offense. With the help of the ACLU of Arizona the Welton’s sued the state for clarification on the law.
The court ultimately found it is within the scope of the law to permit qualified patients to consume marijuana extracts.
Arizona Medical Marijuana Act
The first step in the court’s analysis is to look at the statute itself. The AMMA governs medical marijuana for the state, so this is a logical starting place.
The statute defines “marijuana” very broadly as the entire plant. There is also a definition for “usable marijuana,” which is also very broad. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-2801. The decision to include what is usable marijuana was a very smart decision. Without a definition for what is and is not usuable marijuana, it would definitely make it much more difficult to argue that uses like extractions are permissible under the law.
Because the statutory definitions are drafted broadly, the judge could not find any limitations on the uses of medicinal marijuana. The judge even broke down the meanings of individual works such as “usable” to find any sort of way the statute could be interpreted differently. Armed with a Merriam Webster dictionary the judge cited the common definitions of: usable, any, mixture, preparation, and prepared.
The effect of these words is to allow patients to employ certain processes to adapt marijuana for a particular purpose and a convienent practical use.
— Welton v. Arizona, CV 2013-014852 (Ariz. Sup. Ct., March 21, 2014)(internal quotation marks ommitted).
Intentions of the Statute
The judge analyzed the statute to take every possible intent into consideration, in an effort to further “extract” a meaning from the statute (sorry that was a bad joke).
From a logical standpoint: the judge says it doesn’t make much sense to limit how marijuana is used. Arizona voters made a determination marijuana has medicinal value for qualifying patients and to deprive those patients of all the uses of marijuana seems contrary to reason behind the passage of the bill in the first place.
The judge also looked at how the bill was presented to the voters at the ballot box. Nothing in the language in the bill indicated that there would be any limitations on how marijuana would be used, only those who could use it.
This Declaratory Judgement means [qualifying patients] with medical marijuana in extract form are entitled to the same protections under the AMMA that other medical marijuana patients enjoy.
— Welton v. Arizona, CV 2013-014852 (Ariz. Sup. Ct., March 21, 2014).