Arizona's Maricopa County Superior Court ruled March 21 in favor of 5-year-old Zander Welton, finding that his parents and physicians may resume treating his seizure disorder with a cannabis extract. Judge Katherine Cooper said that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), approved by voters in 2010, allows patients to use extracts without fear of prosecution. In October, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona sued the county on behalf of Zander and his parents, Jennifer and Jacob Welton, after Maricopa Attorney Bill Montgomery and other Arizona law enforcement agents asserted that the AMMA does not permit the use of extracts, and threatened criminal charges.
"We are thrilled by this decision," said Jennifer Welton. "I am so relieved that we can give Zander the right form of this medication -- the form that will provide him with the best benefit and help him have a fuller life. We hope this battle is over and that county officials will stop trying to keep Zander from his medicine."
The Weltons had been successfully treating their son's seizures with a combination of CBD oil, a non-psychoactive cannabis extract, and herbaceous cannabis. But fear of prosecution forced the Weltons to stop using the CBD oil and use only herbaceous cannabis. The cannabis in plant form alone was less effective for Zander, and was found to be difficult to properly dose and administer.
"Maricopa County had placed a cruel obstacle between Zander and the medicine that had drastically reduced his seizures," said ACLU staff attorney Emma Andersson. "Now, thanks to this ruling, the county can no longer interfere with sick patients' access to marijuana in the form that best suits their medical needs. This is precisely what Arizonans intended when they voted for the medical marijuana ballot initiative: compassion over criminalization."
Judge Cooper wrote that nothing in the AMMA "limits the form in which patients may use medical marijuana.… The AMMA authorizes qualifying patients to use extracts, including CBD oil, prepared from the marijuana plant... It makes no sense to interpret the AMMA as allowing people…to use medical marijuana but only if they take it in one particular form. Such an interpretation reduces, if not eliminates, medical marijuana as a treatment option for those who cannot take it in plant form, or who could receive a greater benefit from an alternative form."
Zander has severe epilepsy and has suffered from debilitating seizures for most of his life. Before trying medical marijuana, Zander had two unsuccessful brain surgeries and tried numerous pharmaceutical medications. Since he started using medical marijuana in September of last year, he has experienced an unprecedented period of relief.