Overturning a 2012 law that prohibits MMJ on campuses, the Supreme Court justices said the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act gave those who have certain medical conditions permission to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
"The justices said the Legislature didn’t have legal authority to enact the 2012 prohibition because it effectively changed Arizona’s medical marijuana law in violation of state constitutional protections for voter-approved laws," reported the Associated Press.
In the unanimous ruling, the justices pointed out that the Arizona Constitution forbids lawmakers from altering what voters have adopted unless the change “furthers the purpose” of the initiative, reported the Arizona Capitol Times. Making criminals out of medical marijuana users, they said, does not.
Justice John Pelander, writing for the court, acknowledged the concern expressed by university officials that allowing marijuana on campus would run afoul of federal laws and could mean the loss of federal funding. It was that fear that resulted in the 2012 amendment.
“But a university does not have to guarantee prosecution for violations of its program,” Pelander wrote.
The Judge noted there are other options, citing the policy at Arizona State University, which makes anyone in possession of illegal drugs subject to disciplinary or administrative sanctions.
However, Pelander said, state lawmakers are not authorized to arrest and prosecute MMJ users under state laws for possessing their medicine on college and university campuses.
Wednesday’s ruling is a victory for Andre Maestas, an Arizona State University student arrested in 2014 for having cannabis in his dorm room although he had an MMJ card. His conviction will be overturned.
It also paves the way for any of Arizona’s more than 160,000 medical marijuana patients to have their meds on campuses without fear of prosecution under state law.
Maestas’s attorney, Thomas Dean, said the implications of the decision go beyond medical marijuana and that lawmakers cannot second-guess or alter what voters have approved.
“This is an affirmation of their constitutional rights to pass a voter initiative,” Dean said. “And the Legislature cannot modify or repeal it.”