In March, police served a search warrant at the home of Charise Voss Arfa on the basis of her having, “a usable amount of cannabis, a narcotic drug, to include the extracted resin and cannabis which is now in solution.” Police seized a marijuana tincture that Voss Arfa had in her home during the raid. Voss Arfa is now suing the state, claiming that the definition of cannabis is too broad and that medical marijuana patients should be protected.
Some law enforcement officials, including the officers in this situation, consider mixing marijuana with any substance, including an oil, to be altering the marijuana into “cannabis.” Cannabis possession in Arizona is a Class 4 felony, meaning people could face serious jail time for choosing to ingest their medicine in ways other than smoking, such as tinctures, edibles, or vaporizing concentrates.
Voss Arfa’s attorney W. Michael Walz explained that the lawsuit, “…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 things as heroin — the same severity, believe it or not.”
In her lawsuit, Voss Arfa asks for the return of her tincture. She also asks for police to be banned from arresting, prosecuting, or taking property from medical marijuana cardholders if they are in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana law. Finally, the suit asks that the state’s criminal statute related to cannabis be considered void for medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
The current state of Arizona’s medical marijuana program is convoluted. Under state law, patients can buy and possess edibles and tinctures from dispensaries, but dispensaries have yet to open, despite the fact that the state’s MMJ law was passed in 2010. Since no dispensaries are open, patients are only allowed to grow plants or have others grow for them. The “at home patient” is not allowed to alter the marijuana plant in any way without risking being in possession of modified cannabis.
Voss Arfa’s case is set to be heard by a judge at the end of the week.