A grey-scale photo of a walkway in Arizona State University.

Kevin Dooley

Arizona State Student Seeks to Overturn MMJ Possession Conviction for Second Time

The attorney for an Arizona registered medical cannabis patient charged with possession after officers discovered less than a half gram in his Arizona State University dorm room is urging the state Supreme Court to void the conviction, arguing that lawmakers have no legal grounds to outlaw legal cannabis possession on college campuses, the Arizona Daily Sun reports.

ASU campus police arrested Andre Maestas in 2014 for obstructing traffic after he was found sitting in an intersection. During a search of his wallet, police found his medical cannabis card and Maestas admitted to having a small amount of cannabis in his dorm room. The police search yielded 0.4 grams – far less than the 2.5 ounces medical cannabis cardholders are allowed by law to possess; however in 2012 lawmakers passed legislation banning patients from possessing cannabis on college campuses.

In his filing to the Arizona Supreme Court, Thomas Dean, Maestas’ attorney, argued that the Voter Protection Act outlined in the state constitution prevents lawmakers from repealing or significantly altering voter-approved referendums. He admits that there is an exception for changes that “further the purpose” of the law, but a plain reading of the medical cannabis regime approved by voters shows that the 2012 legislative action does not fit that exception.

Dean, quoting the 2010 state law, said “The purpose of this act is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians and providers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties,” adding that the ban on medical cannabis possession on college campuses “obviously” does not further the voters’ intent.

State Attorney General Mark Brnovich contends that the state had to recriminalize medical cannabis use on college campuses because allowing its use would put the universities and colleges at-risk to lose federal funding because cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

In the report, Dean rebuked the attorney general’s claim, pointing out that federal law “simply requires that the school impose an internal disciplinary action against students or employees that discourages them from engaging in conduct that would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act” and that his client had already been punished by the school which made the criminal charges “completely unnecessary.”

Previously, Maricopa County Superior Court vacated the conviction; however Brnovich moved for a review by the Supreme Court.

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