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Felony Count for MMJ Patient?

A student at Arizona State University with a valid medical marijuana card is facing felony possession charges stemming from a recent incident in which police discovered less than a gram of marijuana in his dorm room. However, the defense in this case argues that the charges against his client should be dropped because a 2012 law banning medical marijuana on campus is unconstitutional.

A report from The Phoenix New Times explains that ASU police arrested 19-year-old Andre Lee Juwaun Maestas in March for illegally obstructing an intersection. On the way to the police station, one of those officers suspected he was “on something” and demanded to search the contents of his wallet. Inside, police discovered a state-issued medical marijuana card, which was all it took for them to detain Maestas for the next few hours for questioning.

Although the specifics behind the search of his wallet are unclear, the controversy in this case lies in the fact that ASU police considered the discovery of a medical marijuana card as a reason to suspect Maestas was in possession of illegal marijuana. And then the shakedown began.

“They were basically grilling me for a while,” Maestas told PNT. “They kept asking me how much marijuana I had in my dorm room.”

Sometime during the interrogation, Maethas slipped up and confessed to having some weed in his dorm, which gave officers all the ammunition they needed to obtain a warrant. During the search, police found a half-gram of weed and some paraphernalia, an amount that was well within the scope of the law… at least almost.

In 2012, an amendment was passed to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act banning the possession of medicinal herb on college campuses. Yet, Maestas’ attorney, Tom Dean, argues that the 1998 Voter Protection Act mandates a three-fourths majority before any changes can be made to voter-approved legislation, that is unless such a change “furthers the purpose” of the law – a feat he claims was not accomplished in this particular instance.

However, Maricopa County Attorney, Bill Montgomery says he is not willing to dismiss the charges because he believes the amendment is “reasonable.” Yet, a spokesperson for the County Attorney’s Office told PNT that “most simple MJ possession cases are dismissed… if a defendant accepts a diversion offer and successfully completes a drug treatment program.”

Yet, Maestas has rejected the offer and intends to fight the charges in court. If he is convicted, he will not serve jail time, but a victory could force lawmakers to reconsider the campus pot ban.

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