Campus Criminals 

Arizona Attorney General doesn't want cardholders to be legal on campus

In case you missed it, possessing marijuana on college campuses has been legal for almost two months for medical cardholders. But that may soon change as the State of Arizona isn't too happy about the decision. Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed for an appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court in early June.

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Arizona State University student Andre Maestas, who was arrested for marijuana possession despite his status as a cardholder. Maestas filed to have the possession charge, a class 6 felony, removed, leaving a class 3 misdemeanor for obstructing a public thoroughfare.

ASU Police Department officers found Maestas sitting in the road in front of his dorm and began to question him. They found his card and searched his dorm room where they found 0.4 grams of marijuana before arresting him on both counts. But the courts waived the possession charges in the most recent case.

The court's ruling doesn't mean an institution isn't free to enact its own policies concerning marijuana, even if it's medical. Colleges can still subject students to their own disciplinary measures. So don't go lightin' up in front of the Dean of Students.

According to the court, the state has no right to arrest someone for legally possessing marijuana under state law. But the law goes deeper than that.

When the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act passed in 2010, then-Gov. Jan Brewer didn't sign the law before throwing in a little clause that made it illegal to possess marijuana on college campuses.

If you paid attention to Prop 205, you might remember the rule that a citizen ballot initiative can't be changed by the state Legislature except by a three-fourth's vote. The second part of that rule is that it must also further the intention of the law.

That is what Maestas and his lawyer Tom Dean challenged. They said increasing the number of places where marijuana is illegal is against the purpose of a law that makes marijuana legal. Makes sense, right?

Well, the court agrees...so far. Brnovich has only filed a request for the Supreme Court to review the case. The court still has to decide whether or not they'll hear it.

Dean wants to turn this into a fight for citizens' right to enact law. But there is a simpler, moral argument here, though one that wouldn't fare so well in the courts.

If we're serious about medical marijuana (and yes, there are plenty of cardholders who aren't) then we need to treat it like medicine.

Even if a college student lives on campus, medical marijuana might be the only thing standing between them and multiple seizures a day. People aren't prohibited from having other medicine on college campuses—which is likely more dangerous—so why should they be criminals for possession of marijuana?

Federal law aside, voters overwhelmingly agreed that people with cards should be able to legally possess marijuana in Arizona. Being a college student, living on campus or simply being on campus shouldn't change that.


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