Medical-Pot Card Doesn't Provide Immunity to People With More Weed Than Law Allows, AZ Appeals Court Affirms; Patient-to-Patient Transfer Still in Question

Categories: Medical Weed

marijuana flowering.jpg
Image: Jamie Peachey
Medical-marijuana cardholders can be prosecuted when they possess too much weed or do something else that falls outside the boundaries of state law, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last week.

It sounds like a no-brainer -- break the law, you could be prosecuted. But the voter-approved 2010 Medical Marijuana Act was rather revolutionary and continues to present legal dilemmas for the Arizona justice system. The appeals court, in the same ruling, declined to clarify whether the 2010 law prohibits patients from selling pot to other patients, as some county prosecutors say it does.

The May 17 ruling came after Tucson resident Justin James Chase, busted in October 2012 after an undercover cop answered his Craigslist ad for marijuana for sale, argued that he may have been in possession of more than the legal limit of 12 live plants and 2-and-a-half ounces of dried pot, but that he should only be prosecuted for the amount of weed in excess of those limits.

A trial court ordered that the case be remanded back to the grand jury in part so jurors could consider the possibility that he could be right. In other words, they were to consider two interpretations of the law -- that of the prosecution, and that of Chase.

The state, in this case a prosecutor with the Pima County Attorney's Office, responded to the order by filing a special action with the Court of Appeals.

Pima County wanted a ruling that:

...the AMMA's presumption of medical use is "entirely rebuttable so that an individual who exceeds the protections of the law cannot claim partial protection under the same law" and "rule that a medical marijuana cardholder who is authorized to cultivate marijuana is criminally liable for all of the marijuana he grows if he exceeds the protections of the law."

Presiding Appeals Court Judge Garye Vasquez, with Judges Virginia Kelly and Philip Espinosa concurring for a 3-0 decision, agreed that the presumption of immunity "may be rebutted by a showing that the cardholder was using or possessing the marijuana for reasons other than medical use."

"Once rebutted," the judges went on, "the presumption disappears and the cardholder may be charged with marijuana-related offenses."

The judges noted that the law's language states that a cardholder may not be prosecuted "if the registered qualifying patient does not possess more than the allowable amount of marijuana." Exceed it, and all bets are off.

The judges still remanded the case back to the grand jury, so that jurors can consider the true weight and number of plants, once that's determined. But the jurors cannot consider Chase's interpretation of the law.

Interestingly, the appeals court left undecided the issue of whether the AMMA prevents patients from giving their grown pot to other patients in return for "value," or just prohibits giving weed to dispensaries for "value." The appellate judges note that no trial court has adequately weighed the evidence in that debate, and so they won't consider it.

The distinction is one justification used by the state's many cannabis clubs, which typically claim to be collectives of cardholders and legal growers who are legally transferring pot to patients. Some owners of the burgeoning legal dispensary have asked authorities to crack down the clubs, but this ruling fails to give any guidance on the issue.

The medical-pot law will be keeping lawyers and judges busy for some time to come.

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

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DonkeyHotay topcommenter

"The judges noted that the law's language states that a cardholder may not [sic] be prosecuted "if the cardholder exceeds the amount of marijuana he or she is legally allowed to possess." Exceed it, and all bets are off."

Hey Ray, correct this -- it should read "a cardholder MAY be prosecuted if they exceed the amounts ..."

Thanks -- somehow that quote got messed up. It's fixed now. -- Ray


His idea was to help provide meds to patients without access i'm sure. If our gov. had not put dispensaries on hold and if azdhs director will humble had voted for 203 the C.N.A. probably would not be arresting a sick patient whom helped other patients get access. But the people we voted in to run our government is against the people who voted in this law and so they have made it as hard as possible. Also 2 1/2oz is not a lot in Oregon your allowed 16oz the reason for this is people who juice the cannabis for their treatment and for those who make edibles. All these need a lot more cannabis than the average smoker. Another thing is that one plant will grow an average indoors of 2oz so if your growing 12 plants you may be over the limit and possibly charged as a felon the moment you trim, dry, and cure the buds. This bill was written because 99 out of 100 people arrested for possession are arrested by the state and not the federal gov. and this was to stop patients who need meds from being arrested, so why are we arresting sick innocent non-violent people for cannabis. They end up in prisons with violent offenders and come out of prisons with more issues than they went in. The prisons do not place you back into society the way you were before you go in. Even though you served your time the issues after imprisonment leave those people with crap jobs and remember we are talking about sick people.


Hey... those of us who've gotten our cards, AGREED to the terms of the law.  Those that end up possessing MORE than what they're allowed, then they SHOULD get their pee pee smacked!  I mean 12 plants and 2.5 oz. of Cannabis is a lot of cannabis.  There's no reason to have more than that.  But the dumbass ALSO advertised on Craigslist.  WHAT AN IDIOT!  That's just putting your pee pee on the table and BEGGING someone to SMACK the shit out of it!  I don't understand some peoples STUPIDITY!


@jetdoc1 @jetdoc1  For one a person that believes that he isn't doing anything 

Illegal shouldn't have to worry about posting on craigslist. Two he didn't have over 12. He had 11 that included one already harvested. Evidence clearly showed this in the pictures of the crime seen. But the Tucson police said there was 18. And tried to cover it up my chopping up the plants so they couldn't be accurately counted. But they failed to realize that the pictures clearly show only 11. You would ask why they would do this? They were very indiscriminate and conducted an illegal search and seizure. They assume targeting MMJ card holders is like shooting fish in a barrel to get their arrest numbers up. Then to justify their actions the turn around and say people are abusing the system. when it is them finding loop holes to target people and abuse the system.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@jetdoc1 "I mean 12 plants and 2.5 oz. of Cannabis is a lot of cannabis."

Complete bullshit, spoken like a know-nothing poseur.


@jetdoc1 I would love t invite you to a debate about this subject any day

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