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Medical Marijuana Is Now Legal On Arizona College Campuses Thanks To One Student's Court Case

Although no longer illegal in many states, medical marijuana is still prohibited by every public college.

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The Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled that the possession of medical marijuana on state college and university campuses is no longer illegal, thanks to a college student who has spent the last three years fighting in court. Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2010, but former governor Jan Brewer signed a law in 2012 that made possession of medical marijuana on any college campus a class 6 felony, even if the marijuana was legally prescribed by a doctor.

In 2014, Arizona State University senior Andre Maestas was arrested and charged with a felony for having 0.4 grams of weed in his dorm room. Maestas is a legal medical marijuana cardholder, and was prescribed the marijuana for back pain related to misaligned vertebrae. The state eventually dropped the charge down to a class 1 misdemeanor, but the 21-year-old student chose to appeal, in hopes of changing the law.

"Nobody wants to be the person who has to go to court, but I feel that my situation and my case was so that it was an opportunity for this to happen," Maestas said. Last week, the Court of Appeals ruled that the 2012 bill banning MMJ on campus violated the Arizona Constitution's protections for voter-approved laws. The ruling also vacated Maestas' conviction for marijuana possession.

"I was very happy. Elated. Definitely what we wanted to happen, and I couldn’t believe it took so long, and it was good to have a victory," Maestas said. "The change that it brings is great. It makes me feel great knowing that in the future patients on campus who are caught with medical marijuana won’t face the same criminal prosecution."

Although it is no longer illegal to possess medical marijuana on Arizona campuses, the drug is still banned from every public college in the country. Students caught with medical marijuana on a college campus can be sent to mandatory drug-education classes or expelled, because these colleges must obey the federal prohibition of marijuana or risk losing their funding.