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Arizona Court Upholds Validity of California Recommendation Letter in Marijuana Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona marijuana case resulting from an arrest of a California citizen who was stopped in Arizona with marijuana. The case is the latest in a line of many cases dealing with the relatively new laws across the country legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana possession.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant, a California resident, was stopped by an officer with Arizona Public Safety for failing to have functioning headlights. When the officers stopped the defendant’s car, they reported a smell of marijuana coming from the car. As they peered inside the car, they saw a white pipe with black residue near the defendant.

The police officers removed the defendant, and he admitted that the pipe was his and also that he had medical-grade marijuana as well as THC wax in the vehicle. The officers then asked the defendant if he had an Arizona medical marijuana card. The defendant responded that he did not but that he did have a recommendation letter from a California doctor stating that he would “significantly benefit from the use of medical marijuana,” and the doctor “approved the use of cannabis as medicine.”

Since the defendant did not have an Arizona medical marijuana card (he only had the letter from the California physician), the defendant was charged with various possessory offenses. In a pre-trial motion, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case based on the valid recommendation letter from the California doctor. The trial court granted the defendant’s request, and the state appealed.

On appeal, the court began by reviewing both the California and the Arizona medical marijuana statutes, finding that they were similar in intent, and both required a physician’s approval. The court explained that the Arizona statute also included a clause providing “visiting qualifying patients” the same benefits as Arizona residents.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the physician’s recommendation letter carried the same legal effect as a California medical marijuana card. That being the case, the clause in the Arizona medical marijuana statute protected the defendant from prosecution under Arizona law. The court based its decision on what it perceived to be the intent behind the Arizona medical marijuana statute. By including the clause providing the same benefit to qualifying out-of-state visitors, the court held that lawmakers did not intend to prosecute those who had a valid medical reason for consuming marijuana.

Have You Been Charged with an Arizona Drug Crime?

If you have recently been charged with an Arizona medical marijuana crime, you should consult with a dedicated criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we represent those charged with all types of Arizona crimes, including drug crimes, assault, and DUIs, as well as all other felony and misdemeanor offenses. We provide a unique form of client-centered representation, focusing on how we can best help our client overcome the charges they face. To speak with an attorney about your case, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

Additional Resources:

Other Articles of Interest from The Law Office of James Novak’s Award Winning Blog:

State’s Supreme Court Permits Defendant to Claim Misidentification and Self-Defense, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, March 11, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Provides Affirmative Defense for Medical Marijuana Patients Charged with DUI, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, January 5, 2017

Exculpatory Evidence in Arizona Grand Jury Proceedings, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, February 13, 2018

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