The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled late last month that patients holding valid medical marijuana cards can still face criminal prosecution for possession of hashish. For those Arizonans who always assumed the two substances were essentially the same, the ruling comes as a surprise. In fact, as commonly used, the words marijuana and hashish are not exactly the same, but the differences are not substantial, at least to many folks’ way of thinking.
What is the difference between marijuana and hashish?
Both marijuana and hash are forms of cannabis. Marijuana is made from dried leaves and flowers from the cannabis plant. Marijuana typically contains 25% to 30% THC, which is the main active ingredient in the plant. Hashish, on the other hand, eliminates the leaves and flowers and collects small outgrowths (trichomes) on the plant. The trichomes are the most powerful part of the plant, and the THC content varies from 20% to 60%.
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and Hashish
Since medical marijuana was created by statute, it also makes sense to look at the wording of the law, which was approved by the voters in a 2010 initiative. It’s actually pretty straightforward. A.R.S. 36-2801(8) defines marijuana as “all or any part” of a cannabis plant. We would have thought that this broad, all-inclusive definition answers the question, but the Arizona Court of Appeals found otherwise. What they said is that since the voters never specifically mentioned “hashish,” the substance is not covered under the Medical Marijuana Act.
The case is expected to be appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court. Public defenders and representatives of the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice say the ruling, in various respects, is just “flat-out wrong.” They view the ruling as an attempt to narrow the broad protection that the voters intended to give to people seeking access to marijuana for medicinal reasons.
As for the defendant in the case, Rodney Jones, he was arrested in 2013 with 0.05 ounces of hashish. For those of you without a calculator, that’s three thousandths of a pound, really just a trace amount of the drug. After being indicted, Jones spend a year in jail awaiting trial, and after waiving a jury trial, he was convicted and sentence to two years in prison (with credit for time served). The appeal followed, and now we’ll see what the Supreme Court has to say on the issue.
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