Arizona Prosecutor Admits Workplace Threatened Pot Patient With Felony


Maricopa County Lawyer Bill Montgomery admitted to the ACLU final month that his workplace produced a error when it directed health-related marijuana patient Stephanie Parisi to a drug diversion plan below threat of felony charges.

“She need to not have been directed to [drug diversion program] TASC below the situations,” Montgomery wrote to the group’s criminal justice lawyer, Jared Keenan, in an April 26 e mail the ACLU shared with Phoenix New Instances.

Keenan mentioned that the county attorney’s workplace had also sent him a “refused prosecution” letter, indicating that it would not file charges against Parisi, who did not have to full TASC. 

If the ACLU discovered of other circumstances “exactly where we produced a error in directing everyone similarly situated to a diversion plan or filed formal charges, you have my commitment to evaluation the matter promptly and take suitable action,” Montgomery added.

Montgomery is an ardent opponent of marijuana in all types and for any objective, but lately, he and other county attorneys have mentioned they would hold off prosecuting certified health-related marijuana sufferers for possessing cannabis extracts. They are awaiting a selection by the Arizona Supreme Court, which is weighing irrespective of whether or not the 2010 Arizona Healthcare Marijuana Act covers extracts and merchandise that include it, like edibles and wax.

The legality of these extracts has been in limbo for months. The state Supreme Court mentioned in January that it would evaluation the case on health-related marijuana extracts, and heard oral arguments March 19.

Nonetheless, on March five, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Workplace sent a letter to Parisi, who holds a valid, state-issued health-related marijuana card, saying that unless she wanted to face charges for possession for use of narcotics, a Class four felony, she would have to enroll in TASC. The controversial plan would have price her at least $two,935, according to charges specified in that letter, and it would have taken an untold quantity of time.

Parisi was pulled more than about a year earlier, in Surprise, for a cracked windshield, she mentioned. When the officer discovered that she had shatter — a glass-like marijuana concentrate, which was nonetheless in pouches from the dispensary exactly where she’d purchased it — he confiscated it, even even though she showed him her health-related marijuana card. He did not arrest her, but mentioned she may well hear from the prosecutor’s workplace, Parisi recalled.

When the letter arrived a year later, “I felt like I was becoming extorted,” Parisi told New Instances in mid-April, prior to Montgomery admitted to his office’s error. Panicked and determined not to go to prison, she set up an appointment with TASC.

She also named the hotline for the Arizona chapter of NORML, a marijuana advocacy organization, and was referred to the ACLU and Keenan. On April four, the civil-liberties organization asked Montgomery’s workplace to quit prosecuting or threatening to prosecute health-related marijuana sufferers.

At the time, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Workplace implied that it was carrying out no such issue.

“The letter sent by the ACLU did not offer you any data on a case or individual involved in the prosecutions they had been referencing,” Amanda Steele, a spokesperson for the workplace, told New Instances in an e mail on April 11.

“It is the official position of this workplace that we do not prosecute folks who have a valid certified patient card and possess/use products that meet the needs of [the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act]. This consists of cannabis merchandise such as concentrates,” she added.

Montgomery reiterated that position in his e mail to the ACLU, with a slight twist.

“Unless and till the Arizona Supreme Court establishes that cannabis is not covered by the AMMA, Workplace recommendations are to forego prosecution of certified sufferers with a valid [medical marijuana] card, regardless of irrespective of whether the resolution may well be to offer you a diversion or deferred prosecution plan,” he wrote.

To Parisi, that wording was not reassuring. Despite the fact that she was relieved to find out that for now, she will not have to invest thousands of dollars to enroll in TASC, the reprieve wasn’t a assure: Could she ultimately be prosecuted for possessing the health-related marijuana that she’d purchased at a state-licensed facility?

“If the [Supreme Court justices] say it wasn’t protected, I never know what is going to occur then,” she told New Instances on Tuesday.

It is also unclear how a lot work Montgomery’s workplace is placing into adhering to its personal recommendations and making certain that regional law enforcement officers are conscious of them, in order to stop “blunders” like the a single it produced with Parisi.

Valley police are nonetheless arresting certified sufferers for possessing merchandise that include them, and they are confiscating the proof.

Steele mentioned that the attorney’s workplace has “communicated in basic our position on charging such circumstances” with law enforcement. Asked for additional detail, Steele mentioned, “Communications with members of this workplace and law enforcement takes place every day … Nonetheless in basic we have supplied our position verbally even though [sic] conversations as we are asked.”

Jared Keenan, the ACLU’s lawyer, mentioned that prosecutors need to be more proactive.

“Prosecutors need to be informing police in their jurisdiction that they need to not be arresting these sufferers, but sufferers maintain finding arrested,” he mentioned. State-licensed dispensaries nonetheless sell merchandise containing marijuana extracts, which signifies that sufferers have no explanation to think that it really is not legal, he pointed out.

“If they know that sufferers do not have notice that some activities are illegal, then [prosecutors] shouldn’t be going following them,” Keenan mentioned.


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