Pubdate: Sun, 22 Jul 2012
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2012 Helena Independent Record
Author: Sanjay Talwani


The Montana Supreme Court Friday upheld a lower court ruling that 
hashish and hash oil are not considered marijuana under the state's 
medical marijuana law.

The case arose from the June 2010, arrest of Buddy Wade Pirello on 
Interstate 90 in Mineral County after a law enforcement officer 
searched his vehicle and found drug paraphernalia, three marijuana 
cigarettes, 20 small baggies of marijuana totaling 52 grams 
(exceeding the amount medical marijuana cardholders are permitted), 
plus two one-gram bottles, labeled "hash," with liquid in each.

Pirello was charged with a felony for possession of a gram or more of 
hashish, and with misdemeanors for the marijuana, paraphernalia and 
driving under the influence of drugs.

Montana law recognizes medical marijuana cards issued in other 
states, and Pirello claimed his Washington state medical marijuana 
card allowed him to possess the hash oil.

A Mineral County judge rejected that argument, and Pirello, in an 
agreement with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to the felony while 
reserving the right to appeal. The misdemeanors were dismissed, and 
Pirello received a three-year deferral of sentencing.

Before the high court, Pirello argued that the medical marijuana law 
defines the medicine as "any mixture or preparation of marijuana" and 
therefore must include hashish.

But the Supreme Court noted that another section of criminal code 
specifically distinguishes hashish from marijuana, calling hashish 
"the mechanically processed or extracted plant material that contains 
(THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) and is composed of resin 
from the cannabis plant."

"In order to have been considered 'useable marijuana,' the substance 
Pirello possessed needed to be a preparation of the intact 'plant 
material from the genus cannabis,'" Montana Chief Justice Mike 
McGrath wrote for the unanimous five-judge panel. "Once that plant 
material was 'mechanically processed or extracted' in a manner that 
reduced it to resins, the substance ceased to fall within the 
definition of 'marijuana' and therefore could not be contained within 
the definition of 'useable marijuana.'"
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