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ASU student’s attorney petitioning Arizona Supreme Court over medical marijuana

PHOENIX — After two big rulings on medical marijuana were handed down by the Arizona Supreme Court last week, the justices could soon be hearing yet another case.

An attorney for Arizona State University student Andre Maestas has petitioned the court to hear whether Maestas should be charged with felony marijuana possession for having medical marijuana in his dorm room. The attorney, Tom Dean, said prohibiting the use of medical marijuana on university campuses is a violation of Arizona’s Voter Protection Act.

“The Legislature, a branch of government, has attempted to modify and roll back the protections that the voters approved,” he said.

Arizona voters approved the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) in 2010, and the state Legislature later added a provision to the law prohibiting the possession and use of medical marijuana on college campuses.

Dean said that provision is in violation of the Voter Protection Act because it does not further the proposition’s original purpose.

“The legislature may not modify a people’s passed initiative unless two conditions are met,” he said. “One, we hear of a lot from lawmakers, and that is that there’s got to be a supermajority … The second condition, though, is that the modification further the purpose of the initiative that it modifies.”

While the Legislature did in fact have a supermajority on the provision that included universities on the list of prohibited places, Dean said it does not further the original purpose of the AMMA.

He said the original purpose of the AMMA was to protect Arizonans who use medical marijuana from prosecution, while the added provision only makes them more susceptible.

“Rather than protecting patients from criminal or other penalty, this statute now subjected them to criminal and other penalty,” he said.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, however, said adding universities and community colleges does in fact further the act because voters approved prohibiting medical marijuana at places such as primary and secondary schools.

“The same interests in not wanting to have marijuana on a primary or secondary school campus is the same interest in not wanting to have it on a state university campus,” Montgomery said.

Maestas’ case was unsuccessful at the trial and appeals court levels, so Montgomery said he’s confident the Legislature acted appropriately when adding universities to the list of prohibited places.

Dean, however, said he’s confident the Supreme Court will hear the case, because of the broader implications it could have on not only the AMMA, but on Arizona’s Voter Protection Act.