Arizona Supreme Court Accepts Review of State v. Jones And Sets Oral Argument
By: Gary Michael Smith, Esq.
News of Rodney Jones’ conviction sent shock waves through the industry, and the Court of Appeals decision upholding his conviction was downright seismic. Now that the Arizona Supreme Court accepted review of State v. Jones let’s recap the basics: On June 26th, 2018, after more than five years since he was first arrested, the Arizona Court of Appeals, by split decision, upheld Rodney Jones’ criminal conviction for possession of a marijuana extract, which the Yavapai County Attorney called an illegal narcotic. In accepting review of the Court of Appeals’ decision, the Arizona Supreme Court is visiting the issue anew and may reverse this terrible outcome.
The public needs to understand that this does not mean the Supreme Court necessarily will reverse the Court of Appeals. However, there are strong signs that the question – Are extracts covered by AMMA? – enjoys a swelling tailwind, but it’s still far too early to celebrate. The Supreme Court has directed additional briefing into February and will hold oral argument at ASU’s law school on March 19th. We anticipate a decision later this year. Even if Rodney’s conviction is overturned, it will be small solace to Rodney and his family, as he already served time in prison. However, for the near-200,000 Arizonans who participate, either as patients or as industry professionals, the outcome of Rodney’s appeal means the difference in safe and legal access to their medicine in all its forms.
As one of the attorneys working on the appeal, I think it important to acknowledge the role AZ Attorney General Mark Brnovich has had in shaping the case. When Rodney filed his petition for review, the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, from whence Rodney’s criminal charge originated, requested the Attorney General to assume responsibility for the case and to oppose the Supreme Court’s review. Indeed, that is what the Attorney General did. But then something interesting happened. The Attorney General took a harder look at the issue and had an awakening that Arizona’s patients are not fakers or stoners. The Attorney General acknowledged that marijuana is medicine. In kind, the Attorney General stipulated to allow some of the amicus petitions (third-party participants in the appeal) to be submitted without objection. This includes the petition I filed on behalf of the former Director of the Department of Health Services. Then, the Attorney General withdrew its opposition for review altogether. Then, the Attorney General handed the case back to the Yavapai County Attorney’s office. While this change of course is not necessarily proof the Attorney General approves of the industry or the legality of concentrates, per se, it does suggest that the Attorney General understands what the rest of us know: marijuana is medicine and anyone who believes otherwise is needlessly discriminating.
Rodney Jones’ needless arrest, conviction, and jailing demonstrates the awesome power of the State to interrupt and to destroy lives. Rodney Jones could be you. The Court of Appeals decision needs to be overturned.
Gary Michael Smith is an attorney and arbitrator and partner in the Phoenix Arizona-based Smith Saks PLC. He is also a founding director and current president of the Arizona Cannabis Bar Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.