AFP Photo / Kevork Djansezian
The US Supreme Court will not overturn a series of Arizona court rulings which compelled police in Yuma County to return marijuana they confiscated from a citizen who was allowed to have cannabis in another state for medicinal purposes.
Valerie Okun, a California resident with a medical marijuana prescription in that state, was stopped by Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint in Arizona in 2011. Finding cannabis in Okun’s car, the police confiscated the drug, hashish and drug paraphernalia from her car. She was charged with marijuana possession crimes, although the charges were dropped when she proved in court that she used the drug as medication.
A number of Arizona courts ruled that the Yuma County police should return Okun’s marijuana, although the police argued that since the drug is still technically illegal under federal law it would be a crime to return the weed in question. They consistently refused, asserting that Arizona’s own medicinal marijuana law – which permits people with authorizations from out of state to keep their cannabis in Arizona – is invalidated by the federal statute.
That argument lasted until Monday, when the US Supreme Court refused to review a January ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals.
The case is especially significant because it serves as a precedent for the 43,000 medical marijuana users that populate Arizona, as well as the hundreds of caregivers who work with the drug every day.