Big Bud on Campus

As long as you’ve got your card, you can have weed on campus. Just don’t smoke it.


If you were concerned about whether you and your medical card would be welcome at one of Arizona's three state universities next school year, worry no more. The Arizona Supreme Court vindicated patients enrolled in college last month, allowing them to possess cannabis on campus.

The story begins with Arizona State University student Andre Maestas, who got wrapped up in felony possession charges in 2015 after campus police found him sitting in the middle of a small, campus road near his dorm.

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the road wasn't heavily trafficked.

They searched him, found his medical marijuana card and, after he admitted to possessing cannabis, searched his dorm room, where they found a whopping 0.4 grams—basically enough for a joint.

The whole situation sounds like something out of a 1984-esque police state. Relatively innocuous behavior could land you in prison. Sit in the middle of the road, and we'll find a reason to lock you up. 'Murica.

Maestas and his lawyer, Tom Dean, composed a fierce defense against the usual boogeyman in cannabis court, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery—the guy who decided to slap felony charges on a 19-year-old kid going to college for sitting in the middle of a road.

In all fairness, Montgomery later dropped the charges to a misdemeanor as is routine for first-time possession charges, but that far from redeems him.

Montgomery charged Maestas under a 2012 law the state Legislature and then-Gov. Jan Brewer threw into the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act shortly before it went into effect after two years of legal sparring. The law reinstated felony charges for medical patients possessing on college campuses.

Well, what Montgomery and Brewer may have selectively forgotten is that voter-approved laws have special protections under the Arizona State Constitution.

No law passed by ballot initiative may be changed except by a three-fourths vote in legislature (which Brewer's little stunt managed) and only if the change furthers the intent of the law.

Forbidding medical marijuana patients from possessing cannabis on campus doesn't really seem like something that furthers the intent of providing medicine to patients. The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed last summer, and the Arizona Supreme Court agreed this summer.

I never get tired of courts telling people who make laws that they can't break laws.

Despite a nice little "in-your-face" win for medical marijuana, the ruling doesn't make campuses a free-for-all marijuana smorgasbord any more than they already are.

Patients still can't consume cannabis in private or public on campus and students are expected to follow the Arizona Board of Regents code of conduct, which includes prohibiting possession and use of controlled substances.

But answering to your university's student affairs board is a lot less scary than facing a judge.

In any case, the regents may want to reconsider their code of conduct or otherwise ask themselves if they're hypothetically comfortable kicking out half of their students, including those illustrious leaders of tomorrow in programs like Eller, Barrett, law school, future doctors and the like.

As if there were any question, Maestas graduated last year with a 3.13 GPA and got a job programming virtual reality. So much for the stoner stereotype. The only characteristic Maestas demonstrated through this whole ordeal was the courage to stand up and call bullshit where bullshit is due.

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