Proposition 203 has sparked dismissal of pot-possession charges in Mohave County against at least 10 people who had out-of-state medical-weed cards.
Though the charges shouldn't have been brought against such marijuana card-holders in the first place, what's been happening in northwestern Arizona is a definite sign that "the times they are a changin'."
More than 10 possession cases have been dismissed in Mohave County in recent weeks because of Arizona's medical-marijuana law, Deputy County Attorney Regina Paulose tells New Times. All of the defendants were able to prove that they could legally use medical marijuana in their home state, typically California.
Under Arizona law, patients with pot cards from other states can legally possess up to 2 1/2 ounces marijuana in Arizona, though they won't be able to buy products from the dispensaries that'll be open in a few months. Final rules for the Arizona program were published today, by the way.
Not all of the cases have involved out-of-state residents, either, says Paulose. A few have been Arizonans who either recently moved to the state, or lived in Arizona but had a legal residence in California that allowed them obtain approval for medical marijuana.
One recent case involved Gregory Allen Williams of California, who was stopped by a deputy sheriff on Christmas day for a burned-out license-plate light. The deputy told the driver he thought he smelled weed and asked him if he had drugs in the car. Williams said yes -- and was arrested after he gave the deputy a zip-lock bag containing some pot and a pipe.
After he was charged, though, Williams argued, with the help of Flagstaff attorney Thomas Dean, that he was perfectly within his rights to possess marijuana in Arizona.
The County Attorney's office agreed. Two weeks ago, after showing documentation that proved he was a legal possessor in California, Williams' case was dismissed.
Dean, the attorney, explains that Williams was approved in California on the basis of his chronic pain -- an ailment that also can qualify Arizona residents for medical pot.
"We had a letter from his California doctor," Dean says.
But not all maladies that qualify a patient to use marijuana in California are accepted as legit in Arizona.
For example, California law allows people who have insomnia or anxiety to qualify for medical pot. Arizona's law doesn't recognize insomnia or anxiety as qualifying ailments, so those patients would still be at risk for prosecution in Arizona. Even if the out-of-state cardholders' ailments are also approved in Arizona, Dean suggests that patients always carry their paperwork in case they get stopped.
The basis for the recommendation should be for the treatment of ailments approved in Prop 203, he says.
We asked Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, if his agency has seen any cases like these. He'll get back to us, he says.
Soon, plenty of Arizonans will have their own get-of-jail-free cards -- and cops will stop wasting their time arresting patients.