The Arizona House rejected a proposal March 21 that would have changed the language in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) to include concentrates and edibles, some law enforcement officials have begun confiscating concentrates from cardholders. A worker from Greenhouse of Flagstaff, a local medical dispensary, discovered this late last month.
While most counties in the state allow medical cardholders to have concentrates such as shatter, resin and hashish, authorities in Yavapai County have made arrests and prosecuted medical cardholders for having concentrates. The Arizona Supreme Court is currently reviewing an appeal involving an arrest made last year of a cardholder in Yavapai County as reported by the Arizona Capitol Times.
Budtender Kelsey Roger, said cardholder, was visiting family on the reservation and driving back to Flagstaff with her daughter on Thursday, March 21, on Highway 89. After passing Gray Mountain, which is just south of Cameron, when she noticed an unmarked black Dodge Challenger that started to follow her.
“Everyone before me was going around 80 or so, going over the speed limit,” Roger said. “I was keeping up but about a mile or two before I saw him, I did slow down.”
She stated she made eye contact with the driver and after she passed him, he pulled out, started following her and pulled her over after a couple of miles.
“He told me that he pulled me over because I had one of those suction cup iPhone chargers hanging from my window, as well as a scratch on it,” Roger said. “He was just saying it wasn’t supposed to be there.”
Roger told the officer she was headed back to Flagstaff for an doctor’s appointment, and he asked her and her daughter to step out of the car to perform a search. Roger had a wax pen in the cup holder of the car, which the officer saw — he then asked her if she was a cardholder.
During the search, the officer discovered several grams of different kinds of concentrates, an edible cookie and some gummy bears, two other pens, a couple of pre-rolled joints and an eighth of an ounce of marijuana bud.
Roger said she explained to the officer that she was not only a cardholder, but a licensed dispensary agent and was not over her legal allotment per the AMMA, which is 2.5 ounces. The officer then asked her if she had smoked at all that morning, which she replied she hadn’t. He then asked her to perform a sobriety test, which she submitted and passed.
Following the test, the officer informed Roger that she and her daughter were free to go and that’s where she said things got interesting.
According to Roger, the officer said to keep an eye out for a letter from the court. When she got in her car, she discovered he hadn’t taken everything.
“He left all my edibles, and he even left a half gram of shatter and resin,” Roger said. “But he did take my Apex and two wax pens, a half gram of resin, a gram of terp sauce and a pre-roll.”
Roger didn’t get the officer’s name or badge number, but stated she has seen what she thinks is the same black Challenger patrolling Highway 89. She has yet to receive a letter concerning the stop and is still confused by the event.
Greenhouse Manager and Grower Ralph Lozania explained that confusion was a common theme when it came to law enforcement and the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS).
“Having worked four years back here now, we get inspected by the department of health twice a year,” Lozania said. “They come and check out the facility. But the thing that’s weird is that they treat it like a restaurant. They come in, check the sinks for hand soap and towels, they’ll look on the floor and if they see a smudge or grime, they get on their hands and knees and scrape it up, telling us to clean the floor.”
Lozania is concerned that the inspectors aren’t asking anything about the actual plants they grow and medicine they produce.
“They don’t ask about what we put into the plants, how healthy they are and what insecticides and herbicides are being used,” Lozania said. “They don’t look at the [fertilizer] ingredient list to make sure that we’re sending healthy medicine out to the public.”
With the DHS being the agency that screens AMMA applications and issues medical cards, Lozania believes they should at least be showing a little bit of interest into what is being produced for patients.
“It just strikes me as a little odd that they’re [DHS] the ones regulating it and they don’t know anything about it,” Lozania said.
Lozania also recalled a time when he was budtending still and an officer came in asking about concentrates.
“An officer came in and asked the receptionist saying, ‘we’re having a hard time understanding what’s going on here,” Lozania said. “People are leaving your dispensary, we’re stopping them and they have this tar-like substance that they take from your packaging and place into their own silicone containers and we have no idea what it is. We’re arresting them now for possession of narcotics.’”
A Greenhouse extractor went out to the police station and explained the process of creating concentrates, but according to Lozania, there is still an issue with officials educating themselves.
“It comes down to money, the state is making $150 per patient per year, and you have to pay it every year, so they’re content just to get the fee,” Lozania said. “And when it comes to the police, they just have so much on their plates that they already have to enforce, and when you actually have to study and take time to learn about it, I think that they’re just too busy.”
According to the DHS’ official medical dispensary checklist, which can be found online, inspectors should be asking about what is being used on the plants, as well as yield numbers.
However, according to Lozania, it seems like the DHS may be skipping certain parts on their dispensary checklist. He is concerned about this because of the number of people who actually use marijuana for medical purposes. He wants people to be getting the best quality medicine possible.
“Coming into this business, as it was just starting, I didn’t know if it was just going to be people wanting to get high or actual patients, and it was patients,” Lozania said. “We have parents coming in to shop for their kids saying that it is a last resort, they didn’t want to come to this because of what they heard growing up, but there’s nothing else helping their child with seizures.”
Lozania also said that there are many older people who want to try marijuana to help them with issues they may be having.
“Elderly people come in saying the same thing, and also [are] complaining about bad side effects from pharmaceutical prescriptions, so they want to give marijuana a try and they end up becoming repeat customers,” Lozania said.
Lozania further stated that he expects recreational marijuana to be legalized in Arizona in 2020, meaning more dispensaries. This concerned him as he was worried the growth already occurring would be fueled even more in the market and lax regulation would only get worse.
“Seeing that it actually does provide medical benefits for people who need it, including kids, it proves to me this stuff works on a lot of levels with a lot of different people,” Lozania said.
The AMMA currently is still growing, and according to DHS’ most recent medical marijuana monthly report states there are 191,683 qualifying patients as of Feb. 2019. This is a growth of over 30,000 patients from the 158,488 in February 2018.