I’ve been a cannabis lawyer for over 20 years, beginning with the time I served as Litigation Director for NORML back in the 90s. I’ve seen it all, the ups and downs, but I have to say that I am very proud lately of the positive momentum for cannabis legal reform right here in Arizona. Adult use, hemp, medical marijuana – There is so much to talk about, but you can’t cover it all at once! This month I want to highlight the ongoing controversy surrounding medical marijuana extracts. Many of you already know that we scored a huge victory earlier this year in a case called State v. Jones. That case settled once and for all the question of whether the AMMA allows for the use of THC concentrates. It does. The Supreme Court, however, left us with a few unanswered questions. Chief among them is the issue of how much concentrates a patient can possess.
We know the allowable amount is 2.5 ounces, but according to the Supreme Court, that amount only applies to flower. The allowable amount of concentrates (hash, wax, crumble, etc.) is limited to that which can be produced using no more than 2.5 ounces of flower. The Court expressed no opinion about how much that would be and left it up to the executive branch to figure that out. In response, the Department of Health Services, in cooperation with the dispensary industry, has been working on coming up with a standard ratio that will determine the biweekly concentrates allotment amount. Inside industry sources say that the ratio will be quite liberal, even close to a 1 to 1 ratio (flower to extracts). That would be great for dispensaries wanting to sell extracts and for patients who want a lot of medicine, but there’s a problem. Law enforcement has been doing their own research into the issue.
Recently, official reports that have been reviewed by this author have revealed that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is housing sophisticated extraction labs at an undisclosed location. This facility is being used by law enforcement to do “experiments” to determine how much concentrate can be extracted from 2.5 ounces of dried flower. In other words, they are determining their own flower to concentrate ratio separate and apart from the Department’s formulation.
Not surprisingly, the ratios reported by law enforcement are far more restrictive. Depending on the extraction method, the average seems to be about 10 to 1, flower to oil! This begs the question, what happens when a patient legally buys an ounce of concentrates from a dispensary, but is later stopped by police and arrested for possession of a narcotic drug because, according to their calculations, that patient is over his or her allowable amount of medicine? Once again, it is the consumer that takes all the risk, not the industry.
Unfortunately, while we have made progress, the concentrates issue is far from settled and more litigation will be necessary before we know where we stand. All we can hope for in the meantime is that law enforcement will act responsibly and defer to the Department’s flower to extract ratio. History would seem to indicate, however, that such a prospect may be nothing more than wishful thinking. Only time will tell, but we will get it figured out eventually. Until then, be cautious and try not to carry more concentrates than necessary for your immediate personal medication.
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Tom Dean has been a criminal defense lawyer since 1993 and has been winning marijuana cases in Arizona for over 20 years. Tom has represented persons charged with every kind of marijuana offense, including cultivation, transportation, sales, extraction, DUI, and simple possession. For more information about Tom Dean, visit his website: http://attorneyforcannabis.com/