Campus Clash

State Attorney General continues crusade against marijuana on campus

A legal fight over campus cannabis is lurching toward the Arizona Supreme Court.

The case concerns Andre Maestas, an ASU student and medical marijuana cardholder who was charged with possession on campus.

Thomas Dean, the attorney representing Maestas, provided an initial argument to the court arguing state lawmakers don't have the right to decide marijuana legality on campus.

After an officer detained Maestas in 2014, they found his medical marijuana card in his wallet, which led to the discovery of 0.4 grams in his dorm room.

Since Maestas is a cardholder, the issue is less that he possessed marijuana and more where he possessed it.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana act passed in 2010 did not include provisions against patients using marijuana on university campuses, but state lawmakers included universities when they expanded the law in 2012.

Dean's main argument is, when it comes to universities, the 2012 revision does not "further the purpose of the law" as required by the Voter Protection Act. The Court of Appeals decided that the addition to the law was unconstitutional for that very reason when they heard Maestas' case in April.

State Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court following the lower court's decision to drop Maestas' charges, thinks lawmakers' only option was to criminalize marijuana on campus.

Brnovich argues since marijuana is still a controlled substance over federal law and universities receive federal funding, then they must keep possession on campus illegal as to not risk that funding.

But Dean isn't buying it. According to Dean, the federal law only stipulates that universities have internal standards for discipline concerning possession of marijuana on campus. All three state universities in Arizona already have such measures.

Brnovich also argued that this is a political question at the pleasure of the state legislature. Again, Dean is calling bullshit.

Sure, the Arizona Supreme Court may decline to hear cases that don't have a clear avenue for a ruling, but that's not a problem in this instance. In Dean's opinion, this is a pretty clear-cut decision challenging the constitutionality of laws passed in the legislature.

The case folds into the larger debate ongoing in Arizona over voter rights, as the state passed a number of bills this year attempting to curtail citizen ballot initiatives. It seems lawmakers are leery of voters' abilities to make decisions when it comes to law.

Voters didn't vote to make marijuana illegal on college campuses in 2010, yet lawmakers made the decision for them in 2012. Now, Brnovich is fighting against the voters' decision.

Maestas isn't a case of a delinquent negatively impacting society. He's a patient with a prescription. Certainly, this sort of prosecution isn't what voters had in mind when they legalized medical marijuana in 2012.

Voters are opening up marijuana laws across the country. Even though Arizona failed (by a very thin margin) to pass recreational marijuana last year, that didn't open the floodgates to enforce greater restrictions—not at this level.

Do our representatives know something about marijuana that we don't? Unlikely since I'm sure they've used far less of it. If our elected officials truly represent the will of their constituents, then its time to end this charade of a crusade.

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