In light of a recent appellate court ruling that universities and colleges in Arizona can ban medical marijuana on their campuses, but that it cannot constitute a crime, it’s important to take a close look at what rules have been changed, what rules are still in place and the possible scenarios for the future.
In 2012, two years after voters approved a measure to allow medical marijuana in Arizona, the Legislature passed a bill that specifically added college and university campuses to the list of areas where possession of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, was illegal. Three years later, an ASU student was arrested by campus police, and – after obtaining a warrant to search his dorm room – authorities found marijuana.
The student in question held a valid MMJ dispensary card and made that clear to the arresting officers. He was, nonetheless, subsequently convicted of possession.
On April 6, the Court of Appeals overturned this conviction and indicated that the state Legislature’s 2012 law violated the state constitution’s protections for voter-approved laws.
The Fine Print
The Court of Appeals’ ruling is not necessarily a clear-cut victory for MMJ patients, nor is it a stinging defeat for the Legislature. The state’s argument that allowing marijuana on campus could threaten federal funding was found to be unpersuasive. However, the court’s ruling indicated that while the Legislature could not pass laws criminalizing possession for medical purposes, they were certainly free to pass statues of a non-criminal nature.
Moreover, there is nothing that says ASU or other higher education organizations can’t put policies into place that prohibit possession of marijuana on school property. They may not have the force of law, but the school can certainly eject the student if administrators so desire.
The Future of MMJ in AZ Colleges & Universities
So where does all this leave college students who may utilize a medical marijuana dispensary while enrolled? For those students who qualify for a MMJ card but are currently living in on-campus housing, it doesn’t create new problems or necessarily solve any old ones. As long as campuses have school policies prohibiting possession, the student has no recourse but to go off-campus, however inconvenient that may be.
Students living off-campus and who aren’t carrying their MMJ with them onto campus are unaffected.
If there is to be any change, it is incumbent upon students and school officials to carve out a medical exemption that satisfies the school’s general policy and state laws at the same time.
At Arizona Organix, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this story as it continues to develop.