It’s easy to forget that simply because a state has a medical cannabis program, that program doesn’t mean law enforcement is chill about anyone without a medical card using cannabis.
“Bro, it’s just some weed” isn’t going to get you out of a jam with Johnny/Joanie Lawperson in some cases. As I have written many times before, that goes triple for anyone of color. Case in point: 18-year-old Jonathan Torres Resendiz of Tucson. As Public Enemy rapped, “By the time I get to Arizona….”
Danyelle Khmara of Tuscon.com tells the story of Resendiz, who at six years old was brought here in 2008 by his mother along with two siblings from his birthplace of Guanajuato, Mexico. They made the trek just two years after their husband/father perished from hypothermia while attempting to make the same journey.
Jonathan is undocumented, and while at his high school on November 4, 2019, school security found 11 vape cartridges in his backpack. He was given a 10 day suspension by the school, which was the least of his concerns, because the school also called the police.
Arizona does not fuck around when it comes to cannabis enforcement. Medical cards are the only protection afforded anyone found with cannabis.
While the Arizona Supreme Court ruled last year that marijuana concentrates and extracts such as those found in vaping cartridges are legal for medical use, possessing one — or 11 — without a medical marijuana registration is still a felony in the Grand Canyon State. Furthermore, teenagers as young as 16 or 17 years of age often catch felony charges for possessing small amounts of marijuana products, charges that follow them long into their adult years, affecting their ability to obtain loans, housing, or jobs. And in Torres’s case, since he’s an undocumented immigrant, felony charges almost guarantee deportation to his country of origin.
When police arrived, Jonathan did not pass go, nor did he collect $200. Rather, he was sent directly to jail for three months. Per Tuscon.com:
A $100 bond was set for Torres’ release the day he was arrested. But when his mom and sister went to pay it, they found out there was an immigration hold on his case.
When a person is booked into the Pima County jail, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement automatically checks their immigration status, says spokeswoman Deputy Marissa Hernandez. If ICE puts out an immigration hold, the Sheriff’s Department will notify ICE before releasing the inmate. The jail tells people paying bond in these situations that ICE will likely take custody of the person before the jail can release them — a process that takes two hours, resulting in the bond that was paid being forfeited.
Torres was sentenced on Feb. 13 for first-time possession charges, receiving 18 months of probation, minimal fines and 200 hours of community service. He has since been placed in an ICE detention center in Eloy.
Although the Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney says Torres was offered the chance to join a diversion program that would result in the charges being dismissed, she claims Torres rejected the offer. His family said they were not told of the program or the offer.
Despite having no trouble with the school or the law prior to this, he is expected to be deported back to Mexico. His family is struggling to find a lawyer and the resources needed to pay for their services.