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Arizona Supreme Court Will Hear Case of College Student Arrested for Medical Marijuana

Andre Maestas was arrested in 2014 for possessing 0.4 of a gram of medical cannabis.

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The Arizona Supreme Court is considering the case of Andre Maestas, a college student who was arrested for the possession of a small amount of medical marijuana while on campus. Maestas' lawyer, Thomas Dean, is urging the court to void the drug conviction, arguing that a 2012 law making medical marijuana illegal on college campuses violated the state's constitution.

In 2014, Arizona State University campus police arrested Andre Maestas for obstructing traffic. During the arrest, they noticed that the student had a medical marijuana card, and used this to obtain a search warrant for his dorm room. When searching the room, cops found less than half of a gram of weed, far less than the 2.5 ounces allowed to Arizona medical marijuana patients by law. Maestas was found guilty of drug possession, placed on probation, and fined $1,000.

The 2010 ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana in Arizona prohibited use of the drug in a limited number of locations, such as public schools and prisons. The original law did not prohibit the use of MMJ on college campuses, but in 2012, legislators voted to extend the locations where medical cannabis was prohibited, including university campuses. Although Maestas was legally prescribed medical marijuana, his possession of the drug at school was therefore a crime.

Dean argued that the 2012 law expanding the scope of the initial medical marijuana initiative is an unconstitutional violation of the state Voter Protection Act. This act prevents legislators from repealing or altering any element of a voter-approved ballot measure unless it “furthers the purpose” of the law.

The 2010 medical marijuana law states that “the purpose of this act is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians and providers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties.” Dean argued that expanding the locations where medical marijuana is prohibited does not in fact further the purpose of the original law, and is hence a violation of the Voter Protection Act.