Arizona Supreme Court Holds Statute Prohibiting Medical Marijuana On College Campuses Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona (“Arizona Supreme Court”) held in its opinion filed on May 23, 2018 that the 2012 Arizona statute that provides that “a person, including [a qualified AMMA cardholder], may not lawfully possess or use marijuana on the campus of any public university, college, community college or postsecondary educational institution” (A.R.S. § 15-108(A)) is unconstitutional.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), enacted by voters as Proposition 203 in 2010, generally permits qualified AMMA cardholders to possess a limited amount of marijuana and, with certain exceptions and limitations, immunizes their AMMA-compliant possession or use from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner.” A.R.S. § 36-2811(B). The AMMA provides that an “[a]llowable amount of marijuana” is “[t]wo-and-one-half ounces of usable marijuana.” A.R.S. § 36-2801(1)(a)(i).

However, the AMMA “does not authorize any person” to possess or use marijuana in the following locations: “[o]n a school bus,” “[o]n the grounds of any preschool or primary or secondary school,” and “[i]n any correctional facility.” § 36-2802(B)(1)–(3).

In 2012, the Arizona Legislature added another location by enacting a statute under which “a person, including [a qualified AMMA cardholder], may not lawfully possess or use marijuana on the campus of any public university, college, community college or postsecondary educational institution.” A.R.S. § 15-108(A).

The Arizona Supreme Court held that because that statute violates Arizona’s Voter Protection Act (“VPA”) with respect to AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use, the statute was unconstitutional as applied to the university student/cardholder in the case it was deciding.

Arizona’s Voter Protection Act (“VPA”)

The Arizona Constitution was amended in 1998 when voters approved the VPA to expressly limit the legislature’s “authority to amend measures approved by voters in initiative elections.” Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 1, § 1(6)(C) provides that the legislature may only amend a voter initiative if “the amending legislation furthers the purposes of such measure and at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature . . . vote to amend such measure.”

The Arizona Supreme Court stated that a threshold question in the present case is whether the legislature amended, repealed, or superseded the AMMA when it enacted § 15-108(A). It is undisputed that § 15-108(A) did not repeal or supersede the AMMA, but the parties disagreed about whether § 15-108(A) amends it.

The Arizona Supreme Court stated that, in general, when the legislature or voters expressly prescribes a list in a statute or initiative, “we assume the exclusion of items not listed.” Because the AMMA sets forth a list of locations where the legislature may impose “civil, criminal or other penalties” when a person possesses or uses marijuana, § 36-2802, and because that list does not include college and university campuses (unlike pre-, primary-, and secondary-school grounds), “we assume that the voters did not intend to criminalize AMMA-compliant possession or use of marijuana on public college and university campuses.”

The Arizona Supreme Court stated that by its terms, § 15-108(A) amends the AMMA by adding a location to the AMMA’s list of specified locations where the legislature may impose civil, criminal or other penalties for a person’s possession or use of marijuana otherwise allowed under the AMMA. § 36-2802. Consequently, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the legislature amended the AMMA when it enacted § 15-108(A) because that statute makes AMMA-compliant possession or use of marijuana on public college and university campuses criminal.

The Arizona Supreme Court held that “the VPA’s restrictions apply to the legislature’s enactment of § 15-108(A) because it amends the AMMA.”

The VPA provides that the legislature may constitutionally amend a voter initiative only if “the amending legislation furthers the purposes of such measure and at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature . . . vote to amend such measure” (Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 1, § 1(6)(C)). At least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature voted to enact § 15-108(A).

Therefore, the dispositive question was whether § 15-108(A) “furthers the purposes” of the AMMA.

The Arizona Supreme Court stated that the AMMA “permits those who meet statutory conditions to [possess and] use medical marijuana,” and the drafters of the AMMA sought to ensure that those using marijuana pursuant to the AMMA would not be penalized for such use. The Arizona Supreme Court held that “[c]riminalizing AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use on public college and university campuses plainly does not further the AMMA’s primary purpose as expressed in those statements supporting the voter initiative. Section 15-108(A) does not ‘protect’ qualifying AMMA cardholders from criminal penalties arising from AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use on public college and university campuses, but rather subjects them to such penalties. Therefore, because § 15-108(A) does not further the purpose of the AMMA, … § 15-108(A) violates the VPA as applied to AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use.”

Source State of Arizona v. Maestas, No. CR-17-0193-PR.

If you or a loved one suffered serious harm in Arizona or in another U.S. state that may be due to medical negligence, you should promptly find an Arizona medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys in your state who may assist you.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, June 16th, 2018 at 5:24 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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