Voters legalized medical marijuana in Arizona in 2010 with the narrow passage of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act – a huge victory for patients across the state – but it banned the use of medical marijuana in prisons, as well as elementary, middle and high-schools. While this is not terribly uncommon – it’s only been in the last year that schools in some states have begun allowing medical marijuana on school grounds – it also led to a change to the Medical Marijuana Act that has only been seen in Arizona, a ban on medical marijuana on public college and university campuses.
Arizona is the first state to have a ban of this kind on college campuses. In 2012, Arizona lawmakers passed a bill to make this change and the Governor at the time, Jan Brewer, signed it into law. The amendment made it a class 6 felony to be found with marijuana on campus, whether it was recommended legally by a physician and in the hands of a registered patient or not. It was only two years later that a student by the name of Maestas was arrested for having 0.4 grams of medical marijuana in his freshman dorm room.
“By enacting A.R.S. § 15-108(A), the Legislature modified the AMMA to re-criminalize cardholders’ marijuana possession on college and university campuses,” the Court opined. “The statute does not further the purposes of the AMMA; to the contrary, it eliminates some of its protections.”
Luckily, Maestas enlisted the help of a lawyer, who helped him build and win his case against the state to not only get his own record cleared, but also to get that particular law removed, to ensure that no patient in the future suffers the same situation. In a ruling last week, the Court of Appeals has determined that banning the use of medical marijuana on college campuses is a violation of protections that were put in the Arizona Constitution in order to ensure the integrity of voter approved laws.
“This case wasn’t just about the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The integrity of all voter initiatives was in question. This kind of legislative tampering is precisely what the Voter Protection Act was meant to prevent. If the Legislature wants to weaken the VPA, it will have to get the voters to agree to change it, and I don’t think that they will agree.”
Now that the Court of Appeals has made their ruling, the state will be forced to repeal the 2012 law, clear Maestas’ record (likely as well as anyone else who may have been arrested and charged under this law), and patients can safely and freely medicate on campus without fear of arrest. College is stressful enough as it is – as is having a chronic and/or debilitating condition – and patients who are trying to attend classes should not be forced to either live off campus and/or wait until classes are over before they can medicate, so this court ruling is certainly a victory for patients in Arizona.