Arizona Court of Appeals overturns law banning medical marijuana from college campuses

The 2012 law was overturned April 6, but campuses can still deny cardholders from possessing on campus

A law that banned medical marijuana from college campuses was overturned by the Arizona Court of Appeals April 6.

The 2012 state law added colleges and university campuses to the list of places marijuana could be possessed by medical marijuana cardholders.

However the Court affirmed a university’s ability to prohibit marijuana on campus. ASU and other universities or colleges can still prohibit students from having marijuana on campus, but those students can only be charged with trespassing, rather than criminal accounts of possession.

The decision also overturned the conviction of Andre Maestas, a digital culture senior who was arrested in 2015 for possession on campus. Maestas appealed the original misdemeanor charge on the basis that the 2012 law violated the Voter Protection Act.

“That (law) does not further the purpose of the initiative, which is to protect patients who use medical marijuana from persecution,” Maestas said.

Maestas, who is the vice president of ASU’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said there was a bigger focus than just medical marijuana, she called the ruling a win for the Voter Protection Act.

“It’s much bigger than just medical marijuana itself, it’s a defense of the Voter Protection Act,” Maestas said. “Citizens initiatives is one of the great things that Arizona has, allowing us to get our own issues and our own laws on the books just through signature gathering and allowing citizens to vote on them.”

Read more: Dry-campus policy: Should exceptions be made for medical marijuana users?

Maestas said that she is still in talks with her lawyer regarding the possibility of the state appealing to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office did not return multiple requests for comments, but a spokesperson told The Arizona Republic the AG’s office had not decided whether or not to appeal.

Steven Beschloss, a spokesman for ASU media relations, referred to the Arizona Board of Regents comments on the ruling, which protected a university and college’s rights to prohibit marijuana in an effort to adhere to federal policies.

“The state may still, nonetheless, prohibit it, particularly as it relates to protecting access to federal funds and complying with federal laws, rules, and regulations,” Beschloss said. “Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and The University of Arizona have all indicated they will continue to enforce the laws set forth under the Drug-Free Workplace Act, Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, and Controlled Substances Act.”

Maya Tatum, a justice studies junior and president of ASU’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy said the Court's ruling was initially a relief, until she realized that the ruling did not allow cardholders to have marijuana on campus.

“I look at medical marijuana as what it says, it’s medical. It is a medicine that people genuinely do need and use and I have friends that use medical marijuana, specifically CBD (Cannabidiol) to help them combat their anxieties, and they are people that live on campus,” Tatum said. “It’s really not fair, in a sense, because at the end of the day it is someone’s medicine and you’re denying them that right to relieve themselves from whatever they’re going through that they need that for.”

Tatum said universities shouldn’t worry about the smell, because not all cardholders smoke medical marijuana.

“I just find it kind of appalling that if I have a migraine I can go take an ibuprofen or a Tylenol, but if I’m having a panic attack the one thing that helps me is my CBD tinctures, and I can’t have that on campus, because ASU doesn’t want me to have it,” Tatum said.

Editor's note: Maestas changed gender pronouns after the publication's story about her 2015 conviction. 


Reach the reporter at maatenci@asu.edu or follow @mitchellatencio on Twitter.

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