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7/23/2014 12:56:00 PM
Judge: Medical marijuana user can sell to other cardholders

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services


PHOENIX -- A Pima County Superior Court judge may have paved the way for the state's more than 52,000 medical marijuana users to get into business of selling the drug, at least to each other.

In a ruling earlier this month, Judge Richard Fields threw out charges filed by prosecutors against Jeremy Matlock, ruling that the wording of the 2010 voter-approved law does not make what he did illegal.

Fields conceded the statute is poorly worded and subject to interpretation.

But the judge said the language of the statute is so vague that it could be read that medical marijuana users can sell to other users without fear of breaking the law. And that, Fields wrote, means Matlock could not be prosecuted for what he did.

At this point, the ruling affects only Matlock.

But Kellie Johnson, the chief criminal deputy for the Pima County Attorney's Office, said her agency plans to appeal. And if higher courts say Fields got it right, that would set precedent for the entire state.

That possibility has alarmed state Health Director Will Humble.

He said it is not his job to enforce criminal laws. But Humble said the ruling undermines his ability to take away medical marijuana cards from patients who he believes are illegally selling the drug.

And Johnson said that, if nothing else, prosecutors statewide need some guidance on what the law actually allows.

Matlock was indicted last year on charges of illegally selling marijuana. That followed his posting an ad on Craigslist offering to give medical marijuana to other cardholders but seeking a donation of $25 per plant.

In court filings, his attorney, Sarah Bullard, a deputy Pima County public defender, pointed out that Matlock has a card from the state that allows him to possess the drug.

More to the point, Bullard argued that her client did nothing illegal. She said the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act specifically permits him to transfer marijuana to any other medical marijuana patient.

Johnson said prosecutors read the law to only allow patient-to-patient transfers if no money changes hands.

That left it up to Fields to interpret a 59-word sentence -- one without a single comma or other punctuation -- to determine what is and is not legal.

With that language unclear, Fields looked to another provision in the same law which makes it a crime for any medical marijuana cardholder to sell the drug "to a person who is not allowed to possess marijuana for medical purposes.' By extension, he said, the law "necessarily implies that a qualifying patient can sell marijuana' to someone who is entitled to use it.

Beyond that, Fields noted that 59-word clause implies that to violate the law someone needs to do two things: transfer marijuana for something of value and also know that the buyer will be getting more than the 2 1/2 ounces of the drug to which Arizona law entitles users every two weeks.

"In this case, the defendant did not transfer more than the allowable amount,' Fields wrote, with Bullard saying the undercover police officer left with only three immature plants. "There is no way to meet the 'knowing' element.'

Fields said his conclusion was necessary because of the way the initiative was written by the groups supporting medical marijuana.

"The fact of the matter is that the statute is very poorly drafted and needs a lot of work,' he wrote. "This court finds that the statute is ambiguous, does not give a person of ordinary intelligence notice as to how it can be violated, and therefore the indictment is insufficient as a matter of law.'

Humble said the ruling could undermine a key point in what voters approved in 2010 that allows those with a doctor's recommendation and a state-issued ID card to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. The health director said he believes voters narrowly approved the law at least in part because patients would have to obtain the drug from one of several dozen state-regulated dispensaries.

He said Fields' ruling, unless overturned, creates all sorts of enforcement problems. Humble said it sets the stage for someone who obtains marijuana from elsewhere, perhaps from another state or even Mexico, to set up shop without fear of prosecution or the loss of his or her own medical marijuana card.

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Article comment by: Arizona Veteran

Here is the correct web address for the petition to support reinstating Sue Sisley and her research on using medical cannabis to treat PTSD.

http://www.change.org/petitions/university-of-arizona-don-t-terminate-medical-marijuana-research



Posted: Monday, July 28, 2014
Article comment by: Dave K

If Humble's intent is to be a gatekeeper and to pick and choose who can receive medical cannabis that is not what the voters intended either. Nor did the courts buy into Humble's use of the "gold standard" as a means to keep other conditions from qualifying for medical cannabis. It was clear at the time that the state had already balked at providing cannabis for its patients on the two prior occasions that we passed medical cannabis. This bill was purposely drafted to make sure that the state did not interfer with getting cannabis to patients on this third attempt. If this is the most serious problem with the act then I am not worried.

There are now over 96,000 people who have signed the petition to allow Dr Sisley to complete her PTSD research at the U of A: http://verdenews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=61459

To treat cannabis patients any differently than others who seek medical help is beyond ridiculous to any who are placed in this position when they are told that they can benefit from medical cannabis by their doctor(s). It goes beyond uncivilized and barbaric for legislators like Kavanaugh, Biggs, and Yee to try to keep medicine from children and others who can benefit. Kavanaugh, Biggs, and Yee continue to listen to the voices in their heads rather than to the external voices of reason. These are the truly dispicable, vile, and evil people that have complete control over the actions of their puppet, Will Humble.


Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014
Article comment by: It seems to me:

Judge Fields put his finger on the major problem with most Citizen Initiatives.

Even when they're crafted by lawyers, based on legislation in other states that has been reviewed by Supreme Courts, they are not reviewed by a state's legislative legal teams. These lawyers specialize in vetting bills for conflicts with the state's constitution and statutory code, and for potential legal problems down the road that will cost taxpayers big bucks in court costs.

It might be wise to require that all Citizen Initiatives be certified--either by the state's legal team or by the AZ Supreme Court, at the initiative committee's expense--before it can be shopped around for qualifying petition signatures. That would eliminate many of the difficulties and reduce the need to make it more difficult to put CI's on the ballot.


Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014
Article comment by: Carl Nye

Blah blah blah Will Humble blah blah county attorney blah blah prosecutors blah blah.

When will it become overwhelmingly obvious to everyone that the solution to all this bickering and nit-picking would be to simply make marijuana legal for all adults in Arizona?


Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Write Your Own Article!

"the real problem is the people that live in Arizona simply don't care."
Arlin, I read your comment 3 times before I could partially deduce your point about mandatory culture and the RICO laws. Not sure RICO applies as that is Fed and marijuana is still Federally illegal.
If the press doesn't want to cover your crusade, team up with a good writer and send an editorial to every paper in the State.
Your last sentence, quoted above, is probably the cause. Most of us could not care less.


Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Arlin Troutt

Yesterday I had a hearing in front of Judge Eigenheer. Will Humble's attorneys were there. This was about the 199 words that the ADHS has used to illegally amass over $9,000,000 dollars with this 25-mile rules that they are lying about. There interpretation of the 25-mile rule violates RICO, the Controlled substance act and the equal protection rights of the U.S. and the State. The ADHS wants to force folds to buy their artificially cultivated designer dope from dispensaries instead of the naturally cultivated cannabis with the 5, 000 year history the voters approved. There is a war over this cultivation cash cow. Howard Fischer and Lindsey Cullom and Yavone Sanchez Winett all knew this hearing was happening and thier editors shoved the story under the rug. I had to battle the court to get the ADHS's own mold warnings on the record and lost. The Health Department fought admission of their own publications and scientific studies and reports from being entered into evidence. There are 10 court rulings against that ADHS on Medical marijuana law violations and the ADHS attorneys fought putting those ruling into evidence. The Arizona Health Department is not the Mafia but Will Humble may end up in federal prison for pretending like he's Al Capone. You are not being told what is really going on with marijuana in Arizona by the press. The press has lied about the safety and medical value of marijuana since we voted for medical marijuana with a 65% margin in 1996. The press can't stop lying now and the real problem is the people that live in Arizona simply don't care.



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