Hash ruling in Montana unlikely to fly in Colorado, attorney says

Last week, a Montana court ruled that hash and concentrates are not legally defined in that state's medical marijuana laws and are therefore illegal for MMJ patients there to possess. According to Denver marijuana attorney Warren Edson, a similar situation isn't likely to occur in Colorado -- but the way our laws are crafted, it's not out of the question.

In 2010, Washington resident Buddy Wade Pirello was pulled over while driving through rural Montana with 52 grams of marijuana, a few joints, two grams of hash oil and some paraphernalia to smoke it with. A medical marijuana patient in his home state, Pirello could legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Montana, which allows for reciprocation: MMJ patients from outside of the state can possess cannabis in Big Sky Country as long as they follow Montana laws.

But according to local police, Pirello wasn't following those laws, and he was charged with misdemeanors for having more than an ounce of marijuana, plus driving under the influence and -- surprisingly -- a felony for the hash. His case made it to the state's Supreme Court, where his lawyer argued that Montana laws allow for all parts of the plant to be used, and that covered the hash.

The judges threw out that argument, noting that hash is explicitly defined in Montana's criminal code and uses different language than that in the medical marijuana laws. Essentially, they are using the laws meant to put people in jail for marijuana possession to regulate state-legal medical marijuana.

As one of the judges states in the ruling: "Once that plant material was 'mechanically processed or extracted' ... [it] ceased to fall within the definition of 'marijuana' and therefore could not be contained within the definition of 'useable marijuana.'"

Colorado's Amendment 20 doesn't make any explicit mention of concentrates, either. Instead, it defines the usable form of medical marijuana as "seeds, leaves, buds, and flowers of the plant (genus) cannabis, and any mixture or preparation thereof."

Like Montana's statutes, other parts of Colorado law define hash separately from cannabis. But Edson points out that the Colorado Legislature has also defined hash with regard to medical marijuana and codified laws around it through House Bill 1284.

Subsequent rules passed by the Colorado Department of Revenue are probably a good indication that what happened in Montana probably won't take place here.

"It's not like they went through it in the last five minutes and threw it in," he says. "They went through six to nine months of back-and-forth on that. We have a great argument in this state. And it is a great argument as to why they should be clarified in future states to avoid what happened in Montana."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Pat Robertson asks for Amendment 64 billboard featuring him to come down" and "Marijuana regulation won't lead to dropping prices, increased use nationwide, advocate says,"

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes