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Arizona Supreme Court to Hear Lawsuit Over Medical Marijuana on Campus

In a case that could have broad implications for Arizona medical marijuana patients, the state Supreme Court will hear a challenge to law outlawing the possession of medical marijuana on college campuses.

Plaintiff Andre Maestas, a medical marijuana patient, filed a lawsuit after being arrested on the Arizona State University campus for possessing doctor-recommended cannabis. His lawyer argues that the state had no legal authority to criminalize on-campus possession and is asking the court to throw out Maestas’ conviction.

Maestas was arrested by Arizona State University campus police in 2014 after they found 0.4 grams of cannabis in his dorm room. According to Verde News, Maestas himself told the officers about the cannabis.

His attorney, Thomas Dean says the 2010 initiative that legalized possession of medical marijuana listed only a handful of specific places where people could not use the drug, including public schools and prisons. It said nothing about university campuses, he argues in the lawsuit.

Then, in 2012, lawmakers voted to extend the scope of the law to include university campuses. Dean contends that change runs foul of the state’s Voter Protection Act, a constitutional provision that prohibits lawmakers from repealing or altering voter-approved ballot measures.

Dean told Verde News that what voters voted and passed in 2010 was not what legislators approved in 2012.

“The purpose of this act is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians and providers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties,” Dean said, quoting from the 2010 law.

Not allowing patients to consume at a university they attend, he said, runs counter to what state voters approved.

According to reports, Maestas was originally stopped for allegedly obstructing traffic on campus. After a search of his wallet turned up a medical cannabis card, he acknowledged having cannabis in his room.

The statement lead to police obtaining and executing a search warrant. Officers found less than 0.02 ounces—far below the 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana that patients in Arizona can legally possess. A Maricopa County judge found Maestas guilty of drug possession, fining him $1,000 and placing him on unsupervised probation.

A state appellate court later overturned that ruling, prompting state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to seek review by the Arizona Supreme Court.

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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