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Arizona Judge Rules in Favor of Wider Interpretation of State Medical Marijuana Laws

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The family of an Arizona boy who suffers from a seizure disorder won approval to use a marijuana extract treatment. The ruling stands to fundamentally change the way the state's medical marijuana law is interpreted. 

Zander Welton’s family filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court last October under threat of felony prosecution by County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

The American Civil Liberties Union helped with their case.

"We are thrilled by this decision," said mom Jennifer Welton. "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. We hope this battle is over and that county officials will stop trying to keep Zander from his medicine."

According to Judge Katherine Cooper’s Friday ruling, Arizona Medical Marijuana Law "authorizes qualifying patients to use extracts, including CBD oil, prepared from the marijuana plant."

The landmark case clarifies the Arizona law, which confusingly defines “cannabis” separately from marijuana as an unregulated marijuana resin that is not explicitly legal. Though the 2010 legalization law states that authorized patients can use marijuana buds and "and any mixture or preparation thereof,” any cannabis oil or extract could still be interpreted as forbidden.

Montgomery had never explicitly threatened the family but said more generally that anyone caught with marijuana derivatives could face felony charges. Yet in a sign that his interpretation of the law might be softening, he unexpectedly dropped charges against another person with a medical marijuana permit who was caught with a single piece of cannabis-infused candy during a traffic stop.

Zander’s family said that their son’s seizures, which began when he was nine months old, were greatly alleviated by the cannabis oil extract. He has undergone brain surgeries and shock therapy for the genetic brain defect that causes the seizures. After two months of using the extract, which the family first heard about from the television show “Weeds,” Zander’s seizures had nearly stopped.

Judge Cooper’s ruling could have implications for many Arizona children who suffer from similar disorders and were prevented access to treatment due to the law’s narrow interpretation.

"Such an interpretation reduces, if not eliminates, medical marijuana as a treatment option for those who cannot take it in plant form, or who could receive a greater benefit from an alternative form," Cooper wrote.

Sources: New Times (2), ACLU, AZ Family, Courthouse News Service

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