Just over a year ago, we reported in our blog (“Court Says No to College Ban on Medical Marijuana”) that the Arizona Court of Appeals had examined the legislature’s attempt to ban medical marijuana on college campuses. The legislative ban was seen by the court as an attempt to override the clear directions of the voters when they approved Proposition 203, which not only legalized the use of medical marijuana in Arizona, but also delineated the specifics of where and under what circumstances medical marijuana could – and could not – be used.
Those limitations included, as part of Prop 203, that possession of marijuana would continue to be illegal on a school bus, or at a secondary, primary or pre-school. The legislative majority apparently decided that the voters didn’t cover the issue sufficiently and attempted to make possession of medical marijuana illegal on college campuses by amending the law in 2012. That amendment led to the conviction a few years later of a college student for possession of pot at Arizona State University. He appealed, and the Court of Appeals threw out the conviction, ruling that the legislature had gone beyond its authority and effectively substituted its judgment for that of the voters. The legislative amendment did not – contrary to the representatives’ claim – constitute the implementation of the new law; rather, it substituted its judgment for that of the voters, and, as such, violated the Arizona Constitution.
In affirming the lower court ruling, the Supreme Court was faced with the argument that allowing marijuana on campus could affect federal funding for colleges in Arizona. But the ruling clearly states that the fear expressed by the legislators did not authorize the insertion of additional terms, which would lead to the arrest and prosecution of the users of medical marijuana on university property.
Beyond the specifics of this particular case, there is an overriding legal issue that has been reaffirmed: Lawmakers do not have the power to second-guess, modify or otherwise twist a voter-passed initiative in Arizona.
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