Medical marijuana fight; ASU student charged for possession on campus

An Arizona State University student has a valid Arizona Medical Marijuana Card, but now he's facing a criminal conviction for using his legal, medical marijuana on campus.

He's fighting the conviction and says he shouldn't have been treated differently than any other medical marijuana patient, just because he lives on campus.

Andre Maestas has been using marijuana to relieve his back pain for several years. He is now facing a possible felony conviction for having marijuana in his ASU dorm room and is taking his case to the Supreme Court. Maestas argues that a 2012 that bans medical marijuana on college campuses is unconstitutional.

For years, he tried popping Tylenol to ease the pain of a displaced vertebrae. When pills no longer stopped his pain, the ASU Sophomore turned to medical marijuana.

"(It) did not have the same negative effects on my body, and more natural and a lot easier, (it) definitely takes away the symptoms," said Andre Maestas.

Now instead of fighting the pain, Andre is fighting the state. Last March he was charged with a felony by ASU Police. Officers found less than an ounce of marijuana in his dorm room. A 2012 amendment to the Medical Marijuana Act banned possession of the substance on campus. Andre's attorney, Tom Dean, says that amendment is unconstitutional.

"It does not further the purpose of the Medical Marijuana Act, which is to protect, not expose, but to protect patients from criminal and other penalties," said attorney Tom Dean.

Dean says under the voter protection act; any change to a voter-passed law, including the Medical Marijuana Act, must "further the purpose" of the original act. Dean says the 2012 amendment does not. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office holds a different view.

In a memorandum sent to the Arizona Supreme Court, County Attorney Bill Montgomery argues that the amendment simply adds colleges to a list of school facilities where medical marijuana is already banned.

"If the legislature can go in and start to dismantle, and tinker with a voter-passed initiative, then they can do it anywhere in any initiative. So this is an important case, not just for medical marijuana, but for the voters of Arizona," said Dean.

Although Andre couldn't get his case dismissed at trial, or through an appeals court, he is confident the Supreme Court will rule in his favor, potentially helping other students just like him.

"If somebody needs medical marijuana, to go throughout their day, they definitely have that right, and the right to go seek higher education," said Maestas.

Andre's attorney took on the case "pro-bono." He says the Supreme Court could choose to hear the case as early as May.

If Andre's conviction is upheld, he could lose his financial aid and be expelled. 
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