Hash, Kief, Tinctures and Other Concentrates of Marijuana Might Not be Legal Under Medical-Marijuana Law

One thing to add about our blog post today on the raid of Arizona Cannabis Society:

Phoenix police say they intend to submit charges on some of the people involved, including charges related to the production of concentrated marijuana.

That brings up the thorny question of whether such concentrates are legal under Arizona's 2010 Medical Marijuana Act. The answer will become more important in a few months, with the opening of medical-pot dispensaries that plan on selling these type of products.

Many marijuana "edibles," for example, are made first by preparing concentrate that is then infused into food products. Pot-loaded foods, liquid tinctures, kief -- a powder made from the crystals of marijuana buds -- and hash all allow patients to opt out of smoking marijuana to obtain its benefits.

On one hand, the '10 state law defines "usable marijuana" as pot plants, plus "any mixture or preparation thereof."

But a much older statute illogically defines "cannabis" as the resin extracted from marijuana plants. And it deems "cannabis" as a narcotic, for which a person can be charged more severely than for plain, old marijuana.

Possessing a "narcotic" is a Class Four felony under Arizona law; selling it is a Class Two felony.

The "narcotic" label seems like a holdover from the Reefer Madness days. Whether hash or buds -- it's all just pot, nothing more. (UPDATE: In further researching this issue, we found that hash may retain some of the butane used in a butane-based manufacturing process. Obviously, that can't be good for you.)

By weight, concentrates do contain more of the active ingredient in marijuana, THC. But pot's effects don't increase exponentially with increased dosage; the concentrates are also just as safe as unconcentrated pot, in that a harmful overdose is essentially impossible. If anyone's ever died from drinking too much tincture or eating too much hash, it would be news to us.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has reportedly charged some state-qualified patients or caregivers with the "narcotics" violation because of possession or manufacture of concentrates, says attorney Tom Dean. However, Dean says he's not handling that case -- involving people tied to the Phoenix-based Soccer Moms Tinctures -- and doesn't know all the details.

If a defendant wasn't acting in accordance with the 2010 marijuana law, authorities may consider lumping in the "narcotics" charge on top of other charges, he says.

That would leave unanswered the overall question of whether prosecutors would charge otherwise law-abiding patients, caregivers or dispensaries with possession of a "narcotic" like kief or hash.

Dean wrote an essay about the extraction of concentrated pot just last week.

Another local lawyer, W. Michael Walz, tells New Times that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office's Drug Enforcement Bureau is still researching the issue.

Jerry Cobb, spokesman for County Attorney Bill Montgomery, says he'll check into it and get back to us.

Last month, the San Francisco Department of Public Health announced that dispensaries should not sell hash, kief or edibles made from concentrates. But the city soon rescinded that order.