Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich wants to arrest people and charge them with felonies for having marijuana on a college campus, even if the arrestee has a valid medical marijuana card and has purchased the drug legally.
Back in 2010, the voters in Arizona approved Proposition 203. That initiative, known as the Medical Marijuana Act, legalized the use of marijuana for various illnesses and medical conditions. It authorized licensed doctors to recommend the drug to patients who have a qualifying condition. The recommendation allows the patient to obtain a Medical Marijuana Card, which in turn allows them to purchase, possess and use the drug, and in some cases to grow a small number of marijuana plants.
As originally approved by the voters, the law contained several limitations, including prohibitions on possession of marijuana at a pre-school, primary school or secondary school. But the legislature apparently didn’t think the voters covered the issue sufficiently, and in 2012 they added their own limitation, making it a crime to possess medical marijuana on a college or university campus.
Arizona has a history of passing voter initiatives, and then having the legislature figure out a way to ignore the will of the people. For example, the voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1996 with 65% of the vote. The legislature then decided that because federal law prohibited prescribing marijuana, they would not enact the measure.
The voters were disturbed over the lawmakers’ actions, and in 1998 approved Prop 105, known as the Voter Protection Act. That measure amended the Arizona Constitution relating to the vetoing or altering of initiative and referendum measure.
The 2012 campus restriction imposed by the legislature on medical marijuana was challenged, and the court held that the restriction was invalid, being directly contrary to the 2010 initiative, as well as the Voter Protection Act. Earlier this month, the Attorney General filed an appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court, claiming that the lower court decision should be overturned.
Looking at the situation narrowly, it’s about medical marijuana, and the safety of college students. But in a broader sense, what is really at stake is the will of the people of Arizona, and the legislature’s attempts to thwart the decisions of the electorate.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004