By: Keith Grevenitz

Stigma has always cast its long shadow over medical marijuana and in Arizona, this is no exception. Many brave people worked unsuccessfully for years to bring patients legal medicine, until it barely passed with 50.13% of the vote in November 2010.  With half of Arizona voters against the measure, it was only a matter of time before something went wrong. Recently, Arizona has resumed its political tug of war over medical marijuana, and it looks like patients, and those who provide their medicine, still have more work to do.  

One of the pioneers of medical marijuana in Arizona has been Firebrand Infusions, a cannabis company that says it prides itself on putting its patients first.  Firebrand, headquartered in Prescott Valley, is no stranger to legal battles. One case, in particular, has captivated the industry and its concerns have managed to echo across state lines.  

WHAT HAPPENED:

A legal, card-carrying patient visited Firebrand’s dispensary in Chino Valley and was then arrested for possession of cannabis… setting a shocking precedent statewide.  We reached out to Firebrand co-founder Philip Baca for comment, and he gave us this rundown:

“On June 26th 2018, a Yavapai County Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a medical marijuana patient named Rodney Jones for possessing a small amount of marijuana extract. Prior to this ruling, the medical marijuana industry had widely regarded the issue as settled in 2014, by Welton Vs State Of Arizona, when Maricopa County Superior Court ruled marijuana extracts were in fact covered under the definitions set by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. However, Yavapai County prosecutors disagreed with the ruling in Maricopa County and continued arresting patients. Like the Welton case, Yavapai prosecutors argued that cannabis extracts were not covered under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, because the criminal code has two separate definitions for marijuana and extracts and the AMMA only legalized “marijuana” for qualified patients. Jones defense was unable to convince the Yavapai Court that extracts were also covered under the AMMA definitions.

This Appellate Court ruling sent shockwaves through the Medical Marijuana Industry in Arizona which has been offering marijuana extracts to patients since 2013. MITA organized a meeting with attorney Tom Dean, to discuss the impact of this ruling and what it means for patients and the industry as a whole. The news wasn’t good and met with frustration and anger. Everyone is bound by the ruling unless it is challenged by the State Supreme Court or a change in the legislation, leaving patients and dispensary professionals vulnerable to prosecution. This has forced an entire industry, now well seasoned in legal battles and confident in the AMMA definitions, to band together and challenge the Appellate Court ruling. To date, the State of Arizona has lost every important case attacking the AMMA and the industry is confident this one will be no different. Sadly, until it’s resolved, those most at risk are patients seeking relief by choosing to not smoke medical marijuana.”

On behalf of nearly 200,000 medical patients in Arizona, MITA and our contributing members would like to thank Philip Baca and Firebrand for standing up for patients who are stigmatized and helping shape a strong future for medical marijuana in Arizona. Let us all remember that this battle is still being fought and your participation is needed too. Let’s continue to push until there is no more opposition. Cannabis is here to stay in Arizona and that has a lot to do with you.