The Arizona Supreme Court will decide whether lawmakers can make criminals of legal medical marijuana users who possess their drug at ASU and other college and university campuses.
In a brief order, the justices agreed to hear arguments by Attorney General Mark Brnovich that the Court of Appeals erred lasts year when it voided a 2012 law which made possession of the drug on campuses a crime.
In that ruling, the appellate judges said that law is directly contrary to the 2010 initiative that legalized marijuana for medical use. More to the point, the judges said the Voter Protection Act, part of the Arizona Constitution, bars lawmakers from altering the voter-approved law.
But Brnovich points out the constitution does allow lawmakers to amend initiatives to “further the purpose” of what voters originally approved. And he contends the 2012 law fits that exception – an argument specifically rejected by the Court of Appeals.
What the justices ultimately decide most immediately affects Andre Maestas, arrested and convicted in trial court after police found about 0.4 grams of the drug – less than 0.02 ounces – in his dorm room at Arizona State University.
But it ultimately will govern whether future university and college students who are legally entitled to possess and use medical marijuana can face felony charges.
Central to the issue is that 2010 law. It allows those with certain medical conditions to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
That law does have places where even medical marijuana users cannot have the drug, like public schools and prisons.
In 2012, lawmakers extended that to college and university campuses at the behest of those schools who argued they fear losing both direct federal aid and federally backed student loans if they allow faculty and students to possess the drug, which remains illegal under federal law.
Last year, however, the Court of Appeals voided the law.
The Supreme Court set a Feb. 22 date to hear arguments.