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Are Concentrates Legal in Arizona? Sort of… For Now

Arizona Concentrates Cannabis Now
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Are Concentrates Legal in Arizona? Sort of… For Now

Cannabis or marijuana? Some would call it a distinction without a difference, but for medical cannabis patients in Arizona, it could mean the difference between safe access and jail time.

What’s in a name? For most of us, the distinction between the names “marijuana” and “cannabis” means a robust debate about the history of prohibition and the relative propriety and accuracy of using one name or another.

But for Arizona patients seeking relief from concentrates like shatter and wax, the distinction between those names might mean the difference between safe access and jail time. The deciding factor? How courts ultimately decide to reconcile the overlap of an outdated state narcotics law and an imprecisely defined medical marijuana law.

At issue is the Arizona criminal code — a pre-1960 relic that classifies marijuana and cannabis as two separate substances. Under this law, “cannabis” is the legal name for any extraction or concentration of marijuana resin. It’s also classified as a narcotic and carries stiffer criminal penalties than marijuana.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act legalizes “marijuana” and “any mixture or preparation thereof,” but according to the ruling of a Navajo County Superior Court judge, that does not encompass “cannabis.”

The ruling came in a case concerning a 26-year-old man who had a valid medical marijuana card, but was not allowed to legally possess resin because the resin was considered “cannabis.”

From the Phoenix New Times:

“After review of the statues the court finds that the AMMA does not include cannabis,” Navajo County Superior Court Judge Dale Nielson wrote in his October ruling. “The court reads that AMMA language of ‘any mixture or preparation thereof’ as making reference to the dried flowers of the plant and as such, without further definition, or information that cannabis can be extracted from a ‘dried flower,’ the court cannot find that this would include cannabis.”

However, a previous ruling on the same legal distinction between “marijuana” and “cannabis” reached the opposite conclusion when local law enforcement attempted to crack down on edibles using the same legal argument.

From Leafly:

A ruling out of Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, ruled the opposite way. In 2014, after Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery hit a patient with a felony narcotics charge for having a single piece of THC-infused candy, a Maricopa judge ruled that the state’s medical cannabis law indeed “authorizes qualifying patients to use extracts, including CBD oil, prepared from the marijuana plant.”

In both instances, zealous law enforcement efforts are at the root of these cases; neither arose from a large scale distribution or manufacturing operation — one was an arrest over a few grams of hash, the other started with a single piece of medicated candy.

But since neither of these rulings creates a binding state precedent — and because there’s such a stark contrast between the competing interpretations — the issue is likely to ultimately come before the state Supreme Court.

But in the meantime, patients, retailers and producers are still left in a tenuous position: Without clear legal parameters concerning the legality of concentrates, edibles and other cannabis products, they’re at the mercy of local ordinances and often overzealous prosecutors and police, who seem dead set on prosecuting “cannabis” offenders under the state criminal code.

And if higher courts ultimately do uphold the prohibition on “cannabis” concentrates, edibles and tinctures? It would be absolute chaos for an already established medical retail system that serves over 89,000 people.

TELL US, are you an Arizona cannabis patient? How would a ban on concentrates affect you?



  1. John

    July 31, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    I find that concentrates deliver a more constant dose than flower. When I used to smoke flower for my pain, many weeks I would be stuck with product that did not help much, if at all. Or product that put me to sleep. With concentrates I always find the dose to help if not fully eliminate my pain. It also does not make my entire home smell like pot. Rick Simpson oil also is great for elimating my pain. Without these medicines I’m afraid I will have to go back to narcotics.

  2. david

    July 1, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I starting using vape pens when I realized it was not as harsh on my throat and I don’t cough as much. I use marijuana / cannabis to treat stomach conditions and coughing can be unbearable when I already feel like Im about to throw up but switching to vape pens reduced the problem by 80%

  3. Gail Tubbs

    June 29, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    My son uses shatter and flower. The shatter is the only thing that gives him ability to think ‘straight’. He is not fond of smoking the flower, but he does it when he is out of shatter.
    The shatter also keeps him off of narcotics, pills, street drugs and alcohol.
    The smoke part of the shatter is starting to bother him so he was wanting to go to edibles. Now some people are bending the law in order get their legal rocks off.

  4. Jason Edwards

    June 29, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    I am in Arizona and carry a medical card. I have lung disease so I depend on concentrates and edibles. This is just awful… This would devastate many many patients.

  5. Ashly Talley

    June 28, 2018 at 9:10 am

    My husband is a madicinal patient. Its the only thjng that helps his seizured and wide spread chronic pain that doesnt make him sick! If these forms are taken away, he will have no pain reliefe most of the day. Concentrates and edibles make it where we can medicate with out bothering other people. He can get faster relief and sustain though out the day. I do not understand why these would be banned if it comes from the same plant…

    • Eleanor Stone

      July 17, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      My husband is a medicinal patient. He uses shatter and concentrates to relieve his pain. He has a disorder called ankylosing spondinitis. Which is a disorder where his joints are fusing together. He needs concentrates to help him be Moblie. Without that he’s in so much pain.

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