A medical marijuana patient in Arizona is facing gun charges for driving with a weed vape pen and a pistol. His case, however, lingers in legal limbo as judges decide whether weed extracts, like those in vape pens, are legal under the state’s medical marijuana program.
As reported by the Phoenix New Times, Noah Blackwell got stopped by a cop for making a bad lane change. While being questioned, he told the officer about his weed vape and firearm, just as a heads up.
The officer took the FYI as a confession to a crime. According to federal rules, marijuana users aren’t supposed to own or operate firearms. So the cop arrested him.
Blackwell isn’t just a card-carrying medical marijuana patient, which he holds for managing pain from a spinal injury. He’s also got a permit to carry a concealed weapon. He assumed by informing the officer about the gun and the vape pen, he was being a good citizen.
“…several lawyers said that under Arizona law, medical marijuana patients should be legally allowed to possess both,” wrote Elizabeth Whitman at the Phoenix New Times. “The confusion arises from federal law that bars the possession of guns in the vicinity of illegal drugs.”
“Illegal drugs” is where things get hazy, even under state law. That’s because, last summer, an appeals court ruled that extracts don’t qualify as “marijuana,” therefore concentrates, like the wax in Blackwell’s vape pen, fall under the “illegal drugs” category.
“If you have a patient card, and you have flower within your allowable amount, officers aren’t going to take that,” Tom Dean, an attorney at NORML, told the Phoenix New Times. “But they’re going to take the concentrates. They absolutely treat patients differently who are in possession of flower.”
For now, Blackwell and his attorney are waiting to find out how the Arizona Supreme Court will rule on extracts. If extracts get the greenlight for being considered medical marijuana, he may beat the gun and drug charges. But if the court upholds the appeals ruling, he could end up in prison, just for trying to treat his chronic pain.
Last year, a Pennsylvania-based medical doctor filed a lawsuit against the US government over the federal ban on pot users owning guns. That suit may become moot, as a federal bill was introduced last week that could allow medical marijuana patients to have guns.
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