A series of Arizona court rulings compelling Yuma County police to return medical marijuana to a person who was allowed to possess it in another state was not overturned by the Supreme Court.
California resident Valerie Okun was stopped by Border Patrol agents at an Arizona checkpoint in 2011. They found and confiscated marijuana in her car, along with hashish and drug paraphernalia.
Okun has a medical marijuana prescription in California, leading the marijuana possession charges levied against her to be dropped in court.
Several Arizona courts ruled that the police who took the marijuana should give it back. Yuma County cops argued that since the drug is illegal under federal law, it would be a crime to return it. They refused to comply despite the fact that Arizona’s medical marijuana law allows people with out-of-state authorizations to keep their cannabis.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the last such case, a January ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals.
The decision — or lack of one — is expected to set a positive precedent for the 43,000 medical marijuana users in Arizona, as well as their caregivers who help administer the cannabis.
But the Supreme Court did not go so far as to confront the conflict between the growing number of state medical marijuana legalizations and the fact that it is still illegal on the federal level.
“To me, that is the elephant in the room,” said Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who serves on the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys Advisory Council.