Sheila Polk’s Big Bang Theory: Prosecutor Likens Medical Marijuana to 'Explosives'

Sheila Polk compared products containing medical cannabis to "explosives" in a brief in the Jones case on concentrates.
Sheila Polk compared products containing medical cannabis to "explosives" in a brief in the Jones case on concentrates. Ray Stern
Sheila Polk sure put the “mad” in Reefer Madness with her recent filing in the highly important cannabis concentrates case now under review by the state Supreme Court.

The pot-hating prohibitionist prosecutor, now serving her fifth term of office as Yavapai County Attorney, actually compares products containing cannabis extracts to “explosives.”

Her February 1 filing in the all-important Rodney Jones v. State of Arizona case also makes the scientifically illiterate claim that “chemicals” in plants aren’t really part of plants, they’re “entirely different substances.”

If it was a college research paper attempting to make a persuasive argument, the filing would likely rate an “F.” Possibly, it would get Polk kicked out of class for poor ethics.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s review of the Jones case, as you may know, has the potential to change the medical-marijuana landscape in the state. In June, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that patient Rodney Jones did indeed deserve prison time for possession of a tiny amount of hashish, because concentrates aren’t covered under the voter-approved 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

If the seven justices of the state’s highest court don’t reverse that decision and rule that concentrates like hashish are protected under the AMMA, dispensaries will have to remove some of their most popular products from their shelves, like vape-pen cartridges, shatter, and THC-infused food and drinks.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 19.

Polk, in her February 1 filing, wants the justices to believe the nonsense she believes about marijuana’s alleged danger:

“The AMMA defines ‘marijuana’ as ‘all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.’ … That non-specific definition does not mean that every conceivable chemical compound extracted from the plant is protected by the AMMA. Such chemicals are not ‘parts’ of the plant, but entirely different substances. A finding that the AMMA protects the narcotic drug cannabis would be akin to a finding that explosives produced from fertilizer are protected by laws allowing the sale of farm products.”

She could have argued that it would be similarly absurd to find that heroin dealing is protected by the same laws allowing the sale of poppy seed bagels, if she wanted to go with a less sensational argument. But either way, it’s a poor analogy and poor argument.

Voters approved AMMA to allow people to use medical marijuana, and the resin that inhabits and coats pot buds is the active ingredient in that medicine. Extracting the resin, Polk either knows or won’t acknowledge, can mean squeezing it from a bud, simmering buds with butter, or using a chemical extraction process. Nor will she acknowledge that extracting the resin means marijuana can be consumed in many different forms. Clearly, voters didn’t expect people with cancer and kids with epilepsy to be forced to smoke marijuana to get relief.

As Jones’ lawyer, Robert Mandel, argues in his own brief to the Supreme Court: “The extracted resin … is no less ‘part’ of the cannabis plant than the juice of an orange is part of the tree.”

Asked specifically about Polk’s bombastic “explosives” analogy, Mandel told Phoenix New Times, “By resorting to hyperbole like that, Yavapai [County] reveals that it has little faith in its legal arguments or in Arizona’s voters, who declared that patients may use any part of the cannabis plant as well as mixtures or preparations of marijuana to benefit from its medicinal resin.”

Banning cannabis concentrates from Arizona dispensaries based on Polk’s ill-conceived legal brief?

Now that would be creating explosives from fertilizer.

Clarification: This article has been updated to note that oral arguments in the case of Rodney Jones v. State of Arizona are scheduled for March 19.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern