PHOENIX – A recent Superior Court ruling throws into doubt exactly how much marijuana qualified patients are allowed to have under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). Although the AMMA defines the “allowable amount of marijuana” as 2.5 ounces, a March 21, 2014 ruling by the Honorable Katherine Cooper raises a question over whether that figure refers to the amount of extract obtainable from 2.5 ounces of dried marijuana, or 2.5 liquid ounces of extracted material from the marijuana plant.
“The distinction between dry and liquid ounces is critical given that 2.5 ounces of marijuana resin is the rough chemical equivalent of 5.5 pounds of marijuana flowers, which is 35 times greater than the bi-weekly allowable amount the framers of the AMMA specified in order to limit marijuana use for ‘medical’ purposes,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Without this clarification by the Court, it is virtually impossible for law enforcement agencies to determine whether a given amount of marijuana extract is within or in excess of the legally allowable amount,” he added.
In a motion for clarification, Montgomery notes that the Court correctly acknowledged its primary purpose is to effectuate the intent of those who framed the AMMA and the electorate that adopted it. The motion further points out that the 2.5-ounce “allowable amount of marijuana” is central to a medicinal approach set forth by the AMMA so as to prevent illegitimate and recreationally-based use of marijuana inconsistent with voter intent.
In a separate matter before the Court of Appeals, the broader issue of whether the AMMA is pre-empted by the federal Controlled Substances Act is pending a briefing schedule.