The road to fair treatment for medical marijuana patients has surpassed another obstacle as the Arizona Supreme Court made their ruling this week that patients are free to have their medicine on college campuses without fear of arrest.
Voters approved medical marijuana via ballot initiative, which put the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in place as a constitutional amendment in 2010. Two years later, legislators saw fit to make changes to the list of places where medical marijuana was not allowed – which originally included prisons, schools and school buses – to include university campuses.
At least one Arizona State University student and registered patient has been arrested and convicted of possession of less than a gram of medical marijuana, because it was found in his dorm room. This court ruling will vacate that conviction – and possibly others.
“It was kind of an amazing win,” said Tom Dean, a cannabis law expert and attorney for Maestas the ASU student convicted of possession. “The judiciary stood up and was not intimidated … It’s great to see the court fulfilling its purpose in such a brave and courageous way.”
In a ruling back in April 2017, the Arizona Court of Appeals came to a similar conclusion – that the legislature had no right to amend the constitutional amendment passed by voters as it did not “further the purpose” of the amendment. In fact, it goes against the purpose of the amendment, which is to allow patients the access and right to medical marijuana that they deserve.
While the state claimed that lawmakers didn’t actually “amend” the Medical Marijuana Act, they rather stated what the voter approved law “implies” by banning the substance in prisons, schools and school busses. They also argued that federal law requires colleges that receive federal funding to implement policies that ban substances which are illegal under federal law.
“A university does not have to guarantee prosecution for violations of its program. And it can refer violations of its program to the federal prosecutor,” the opinion of the Supreme Court states. “The State has not shown that a university would lose (or has lost) federal funding if a state prosecutor did not prosecute violations of the university’s program.”
However, neither the Court of Appeals nor the Supreme Court were fooled by this argument, saying there is no reason to believe that federal funds would be threatened by not prosecuting medical marijuana patients. As it stands now, schools can ban possession – but students who break this rule cannot be arrested under state law any longer, so students like Maestas do not have to fear arrest for simply medicating so they can get through school.