Court rules extracts considered medical marijuana

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By Erin Kennedy By Erin Kennedy

PHOENIX (AP) -- A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled late Friday that a 5-year-old Mesa boy with debilitating seizures can be treated with marijuana extract, effectively re-interpreting Arizona's medical marijuana law.

In her ruling on a preliminary injunction filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Judge Katherine Cooper said Zander Welton can legally consume marijuana extracts. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which was voter-approved in 2010, authorizes qualifying patients to use extracts, including CBD oil, adapted from marijuana, Cooper wrote.

Nothing in the law's language or ballot materials "suggests that patients should or would be limited to using un-manipulated plant material for their medical needs," Cooper said.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the motion Nov. 13. The group previously filed a lawsuit asking the court to bar Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and state health officials from taking action against Zander's parents, dispensary operators or others who provided marijuana extracts for medical use.

The Nov. 13 filing says Zander Welton "is likely to suffer irreparable injury if his parents cannot treat him with a marijuana extract without fear of criminal prosecution."

Jennifer Welton, the boy's mother, said in a statement released through the ACLU that she was thrilled by the decision.

"I am so relieved that we can give Zander the right form of this medication, the form that will provide him with the best benefit and help him have a fuller life," she said.

Emma Andersson, an ACLU attorney, said all qualifying patients won't have to worry about breaking the law if they need marijuana extract.

"Now, thanks to this ruling, the county can no longer interfere with sick patients' access to marijuana in the form that best suits their medical needs," Andersson said.

A spokesman for Montgomery did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Under the state's current medical marijuana law, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office considers extracts illegal. But Montgomery has said that he was willing to work with law enforcement agencies to figure out how to handle issues that don't fall squarely within the provisions of the law.

According to the boy's parents, Zander had his first seizure when he was 9 months old. His medical condition improved after using extracts including cannabis oil and his seizures decreased significantly.

In September, Arizona Health Services Director Will Humble said resin, which is extracted from marijuana flowers, might not be permissible under the state's medical marijuana law. He advised licensed dispensary owners and patients to consult with an attorney if they felt their activity might expose them to criminal prosecution.

The state's position led a Tempe dispensary to cease its efforts to help Zander.

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