In 2003 then-California Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued an opinion that said possessing concentrated cannabis, which can take the form of hash, wax and honey oil, qualified for protection under the state's landmark Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized medical pot.
Some prosecutors and cops didn't get the memo though, literally, as they continued to arrest and prosecute patients for possessing some of those harder forms of weed.
A California appeals court might have recently put the matter to rest.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that "the statutory definition of 'marijuana' includes the resin extracted from the Cannabis sativa L. plant and “concentrated cannabis” is that resin."
Medical marijuana experts welcomed the opinion, but said that it wouldn't change much since most big-city law enforcement has followed Lockyer's advice.
Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML, told us:
For the first time, a California appeals court has ruled that concentrated cannabis qualifies as medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act. This doesn't really mark a change in policy, since Attorney General Lockyer issued an opinion to the same effect. However, some courts and DAs have been reluctant to respect the AG's opinion, so it's good to have an appellate court rule this way.
Santa Monica attorney Mieke ter Poorten, who often represents area dispensaries, said a misunderstanding of concentrates and the law has "never been an issue for me in Los Angeles."
However, lawmen and women in other parts of California sometimes aren't clear on the legal guidelines here, she said:
A lot of times police don't know what the law is. Medical marijuana law is changing so quickly that a lot of times the cops don't have the continuing legal education they should have on these issues. You can't blame them, because it's moving so quickly. They would frequently arrest people for that. This ruling will actually wipe away that ambiguity for more conservative D.A.s.
It came at a good time for patients who prefer their THC in concentrated form. Concentrates have become extremely popular as some people have turned to using stealth, e-cigarette-style vaporizer pens with oils and waxes.
The 3rd District Court case involved the 2013 arrest of the Sacramento area's Sean Patrick Mulcrevy, who was on probation for unlawful exhibition of a firearm.
Authorities said the 0.16 grams of honey oil and 0.05 grams of "dab" found on him during a probation check didn't qualify for protection under California's medical marijuana law even though Mulcrevy had a doctor's recommendation for pot.
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Back behind bars he went.
But he fought the case. And lost. Until the 3rd District panel ruled in his favor:
Since the trial court’s determination that defendant violated his probation was premised upon its erroneous finding that defendant’s possession of concentrated cannabis was unlawful, we find insufficient evidence to support that determination ...