The high court’s decision effectively upholds a January Arizona Court of Appeals ruling requiring the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office to return marijuana taken from Valerie Okun, a California patient who legally possessed the drug under Arizona law.
Okun had the marijuana in her car when she went through a Border Patrol checkpoint. Criminal charges were ultimately dismissed when she provided proof she could legally possess the marijuana, but the sheriff’s office refused to obey a Yuma Superior Court order to return it, arguing that doing so would violate federal drug laws.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Okun’s marijuana wasn’t subject to seizure because she was allowed to have it under Arizona law, and the sheriff’s office was immune from federal law so long as it was acting to obey a court order.
The next issue to be decided by the courts will be whether the federal Controlled Substances Act supersedes the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. A case stemming from Maricopa County’s refusal to process a zoning permit for a medical marijuana dispensary is pending in the Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court in March refused to allow Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to skip a review by the appellate court.
Montgomery has argued that county employees are at risk of violating the federal law if they process the zoning permit, a prerequisite to opening a dispensary. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled in December that federal law doesn’t preempt the Arizona medical marijuana law.