Medical Marijuana is Legal on Campus in Arizona

medical marijuana is legal on campus

Medical Marijuana is Legal on Campus in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court issued an opinion this May, striking an Arizona law that criminalized medical marijuana on campus. So, let’s see how medical marijuana is legal on campus in Arizona. In 2010, the Arizona people enacted Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). This allows qualified individuals to obtain an AMMA card to legally possess a small amount of marijuana. The initiative contained certain exceptions and limitations. One of those limitations is the use or possession of medical marijuana is prohibited at certain locations. This means that even though you may be a valid AMMA cardholder, if you possessed or smoked marijuana in these locations you could be charged with a crime.

The AMMA prohibited marijuana possession or use on any school bus, preschool, primary, or secondary school and in a correction facility.

In 2012, the Arizona Legislature enacted §15-108(A), prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana on the campus of any public university, college, community college, or postsecondary education institution. How come medical marijuana is legal on campus in Arizona?

In March of 2014, Andre Maestas, an Arizona State student, was arrested on campus for the possession of marijuana in his dorm room. Maestas is a qualified AMMA cardholder and the amount he had in his dorm room was well below the maximum amount allowed to possess.

Maestas challenged his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. Maestas stated that the law was unconstitutional as it violated the Arizona Voter Protection Act (VPA). The Arizona Voter Protection Act limits the Arizona Legislature’s ability to amend, repeal, or supersede voter initiatives. If the Legislature wants to amend, repeal or supersede a voter initiative like the AMMA, the proposed law must get at least three-fourths of each legislative body’s approval on the measure. The law must also further the purpose of the voter initiative.

The Supreme Court analyzed the AMMA. The AMMA’s purpose is to allow those who qualify for a card to possess marijuana lawfully, and not face persecution for an otherwise illegal offense since marijuana is not legal in Arizona.

medical marijuana is legal on campusClearly expanding the areas where legal cardholders could be prosecuted would not be in-line with the AMMA. The purpose of the AMMA is to protect patients who need medical marijuana cards and ensure that they use lawfully.

The AMMA also clearly states the locations that are exempted from the law – school buses, preschools, primary schools, secondary schools, and correctional facilities. The Supreme Court used a common statutory interpretation tool to decipher the meaning – if the law specifically stated certain conditions, then the court assumes that a condition not in that list is not covered by the law. Therefore, because the law never mentions colleges or university campuses, then that was never intended to be in the list of exceptions to the AMMA. So, medical marijuana is legal on campus in Arizona colleges and university.

Knowledge of this opinion is not only useful for those college or university students who use medical marijuana. It is also useful for cardholders who find themselves in situations where some individual or law enforcement attempts to prosecute them for their use or possession of medical marijuana.

While it is helpful to know where you can’t legally possess or smoke, it is likely that there are current Arizonians who have been prosecuted for possession or using in an area that is not under the list of exceptions to the AMMA, but yet they were prosecuted anyway.

The AMMA’s purpose is pretty clear, according to the Supreme Court. The AMMA ensures that those who lawfully obtain a card can possess or use without the threat of arrest or prosecution. Knowing that the Supreme Court has held this will help those individuals who find themselves in situations where their use or possession is being questioned.