Arizona: Ban on MMJ on College Campuses Struck Down (For Now)

Legal cannabis is also legal at Arizona schools—in the dormitories and on the college green.

An Arizona high court has struck down a ban on medical marijuana at the state’s college and university campuses. Following state voters’ approval of medical cannabis in 2010, state lawmakers passed a law making it a crime for approved cannabis patients to bring their marijuana into various places—among them school buses, prisons, and state-funded institutions of higher learning.

Doing so, as The Arizona Daily Sun reports, turns medical marijuana users into criminals—and doing that violates the will of the voters who approved medical marijuana in the first place, an appeals court judge ruled.

State lawmakers can only modify the 2010 cannabis initiative so long as it “furthers the purpose” of the law. And, as Judge Peter Swann wrote, banning marijuana on campus outright “eliminates some of its protections,” the newspaper reported.

At the same time, colleges aren’t necessarily going to become free-fire zones for marijuana use (at least any more than they are already). Swann’s ruling neglected to say anything about individual campuses’ abilities to restrict or outlaw medical-marijuana use, as they have in other states where cannabis is legal.

There is much precedent for buildings or institutions of all kinds outlawing marijuana possession, even in places where sales of the drug are a billion-dollar industry. Among the most prominent examples is Denver International Airport, where cannabis is forbidden despite the thriving marijuana industry right outside its gates.

The ruling originated with a case involving police overreaching of epic (but, sadly, all too common) proportions. In 2014, Arizona State University student Andre Maestas was arrested for obstructing traffic, after campus cops “found him sitting in an intersection” sometime after midnight one evening. Searching his person, cops found a medical-marijuana recommendation card.

Under questioning, Maestas admitted the obvious: yes, he is a medical-cannabis patient, and yes, he had some—back at his room. Cops obtained a search warrant, and then raided his dorm. The bust turned up 0.6 grams of cannabis—a minscule amount, worth less than $5 even in places where the drug is hard to obtain—but enough to charge him with a felony under the 2012 law banning weed on campus. (Because there was no way the spectacle of a dorm raid was going to result in nothing.)

The felony charge, it should be noted, was brought by the district attorney of Maricopa County, a longtime foe of the state’s medical-marijuana law, as the Phoenix New Times reported.

Maestas was eventually found guilty of a misdemeanor and told to pay a $1,000 fine, but instead chose to appeal his case. It’s not yet clear if the attorney general of the state will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

In the meantime, lawmakers and university officials both argued that the prohibition cannabis was necessary, because universities receive federal funding. Exactly what nexus there is between students possessing weed on campus, as they have done from the beginning of time, and a school losing federal funding has yet to be established. (Possibly because, as with other tissues of nonsense, it doesn’t exist.)

As things stand, the risk posed by weed on campus is solely to the weed-holder, who stands to lose federal student loans, student housing, and other benefits over legal weed. And that, unfortunately, still stands.

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