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AZ Supreme Court says medical marijuana not illegal on state college campuses

Pot on campus? The rules for medical marijuana at state colleges are changing.The Arizona Board of Regents say...

Posted: May 24, 2018 6:22 PM
Updated: May 24, 2018 6:22 PM

Pot on campus? The rules for medical marijuana at state colleges are changing.

The Arizona Board of Regents say it's still against the rules. But you can no longer get arrested for it.

This case went all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The decision came down Wednesday, making it legal to use and possess medical marijuana on a state college campus.

"So, I was born with a misaligned vertebrae (sic) in my back," said Andre Maestas.

As a freshman at ASU, Andre Maestas turned to medical marijuana for pain management.

"It was just better for me allowed me to stay clearheaded," he said.

In 2014, campus police found a small amount of marijuana in his dorm room. Maestas was convicted of a felony.

His attorney, Tom Dean, picked up his case pro-bono. He explains, medical marijuana was passed in 2010, but two years later, the state Legislature added to the law, making it illegal to use or possess it on state college campuses.

"We have in Arizona what's called the Arizona Voter Protection Act. It's part of our constitution. And it says you can't modify a voter ballot initiative," said Dean.

He argued this rule change went against that act.

Wednesday, Arizona Supreme Court judges agreed with him, overturning the law and making it legal to carry and possess on campus.

"This was a huge win for all voters whether you agree with medical marijuana or not. If you're a voter, you won today. Stopping the Legislature from being able to take that power back from the people," said Dean.

But that doesn't mean students and staff can start lighting up on campus. All three state schools can still set their own rules and enforce them.

"If they get caught, then they could be subject to internal disciplinary actions, usually for a first offense it's a warning," said Dean. "It could go all the way up to expulsion."

The Arizona Board of Regents sent AZFamily a statement saying:

"The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) policy prohibits the unauthorized use, possession or distribution, or possession for purposes of distribution of any controlled substance or illegal drug on university campuses or at a university-sponsored activity. As well, ABOR policy requires each university and the system office to be a drug-free workplace, as required by the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act. Further, under the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, "no institution of higher education shall be eligible to receive funds or any other form of financial assistance under any federal program, including participation in any federally funded or guaranteed student loan program, unless it has adopted and has implemented a program to prevent the use of illicit drugs and abuse of alcohol by students and employees." Further, the federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the unauthorized possession, use or production of marijuana, even for medical use. While the Arizona Supreme Court today has ruled that medical marijuana patients are not subject to criminal arrest if they have their drug on college and university campuses, the universities and the board may enforce administrative policies prohibiting drugs on campus.

Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and The University of Arizona have all indicated they will continue to enforce board policy and applicable federal laws."

But arrest is no longer a risk.

"Happy that a long process has finally come to an end and we were proven correct," said Maestas.

Maestas has since graduated from ASU. Dean plans to work to get his conviction taken off his record, and wants to see his fine repaid.

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