A woman is suing the state, claiming police violated Arizona’s medical-marijuana laws when they seized a marijuana-infused oil during a raid of her home last spring.
Charise Voss Arfa, a medical-marijuana patient, claims police wrongfully considered the oil labeled “Soccer Moms Tincture” a narcotic instead of marijuana. A tincture is typically an alcoholic extract of plant or animal material or solution.
W. Michael Walz, the attorney representing Voss Arfa, said some law-enforcement officials consider mixing marijuana with any substance — such as oil, brownie mix or dressing — altering the marijuana into “cannabis.”
The lawsuit argues the statute defining cannabis is too vague and should not apply to medical-marijuana cardholders who legally participate in the state program that allows people with certain medical conditions to ingest marijuana.
“This is really about not smoking and having the ability to use marijuana in non-smoking forms without fear of being prosecuted for a Class 4 felony, which is, under the law, the same thing as heroin — the same severity, believe it or not,” Walz said.
According to the lawsuit, police on March 28 served a search warrant, finding probable cause to search Voss Arfa’s Phoenix home for “a usable amount of cannabis, a narcotic drug, to include the extracted resin and cannabis which is now in solution.”
Voss Arfa in her lawsuit asks a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to order police to return the oil; to ban police from arresting, prosecuting or taking property from medical-marijuana cardholders; and to declare the state’s criminal statute related to cannabis void as it applies to medical-marijuana patients and caregivers. She also asks the court to pay her expenses associated with the legal action.
Arizona’s medical-marijuana program was created in 2010. Qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions must obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana and register with the state, which issues identification cards. Under the law, the state can set up and regulate up to 126 dispensaries, although none has yet opened.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble, whose agency oversees the medical-marijuana program, said patients will be allowed to buy and possess items containing marijuana, such as brownies and oils, through dispensaries. But because no dispensaries are open, Humble said, people are only allowed to grow plants or have caregivers grow for them. Patients can obtain up to 21/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
“The (medical marijuana) act allows the future dispensaries, under our regulation, to create edibles and other infused products, like a tincture,” he said. “Since there’s no dispensaries, no one’s able to legally make the stuff, and it’s not legal to import from out of state.”
State and county prosecutors are trying to prevent the opening of any dispensaries, arguing in part the state’s medical-marijuana program violates federal drug laws.
A Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments in the case.