If you are a fan of this blog—and we’re hoping you are, you’ll notice that we have closely watched the case of Arizona vs. Jones. Back in 2013, Yavapai County resident Rodney Jones, a registered medical marijuana patient, was arrested and sentenced to two and half years in prison for the possession of .05 ounces of hashish, and given a concurrent one-year term for drug paraphernalia —the jar holding the hash. His first appeal, in 2018, was rejected. Because of its far-reaching implications for Arizona’s medical cannabis industry and almost 185,000 patients, we’ve eagerly anticipated the case’s outcome as it headed to the state Supreme Court.
At the heart of the legal battle was a somewhat illogical disagreement as to what exactly the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) included. Yavapai County contended that ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana in the state only permitted smokeable flower. The state twice convicted Jones on the premise that extracts and resins—like those used in oils, or edibles, or vapes—were not included in the AMMA because they were not listed by name in the new law. Why children and the elderly prescribed marijuana for serious medical conditions would only be allowed to smoke it is a little lost on us.And apparently on the Arizona Supreme Court as well. The court agreed unanimously on Tuesday that because voters passed the AMMA as a ballot initiative, the spirit of their intent should be upheld.
“The most reliable indicator of that intent,” wrote the court’s majority, “is the language of the statute, and if it is clear and unambiguous, we apply its plain meaning. A plain reading of the relevant provisions compels our conclusion that AMMA protects the use of ‘marijuana,’ including resin, so long as the patient does not exceed the allowable amount and otherwise complies with the statutory requirements,” the court ruled.
We are glad that common sense prevailed and the high court deferred to the will of the electorate. As for Rodney Jones, he is reportedly overjoyed. It’s so easy to celebrate along with him, as this ruling moves us one step closer to common sense drug policy in the US. We continue to look forward to the day when unduly harsh penalties and uneven sentencing are just a distant national memory.
Christina Rock is a Seattle-based writer and photographer, who loves being pleasantly surprised by the judicial branch.