YUMA, AZ — The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office must return marijuana confiscated from a California medical marijuana patient.
Valerie Okun, a California resident permitted to use medical marijuana, was cited for violating Arizona drug laws in 2011, when authorities confiscated marijuana from her at a border checkpoint near Yuma. Those charges were later dismissed after she provided her California medical marijuana authorization to court officials.
Arizona’s 2010 voter approved medical marijuana law allows reciprocity to patients from other medical marijuana states, honoring their medical marijuana cards and allowing medical marijuana patients visiting Arizona to possess up to two and a half ounces of cannabis.
After Okun’s charges were dropped, she asked the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office to return her medicine, a request that was granted by the court.
The Yuma County Sheriff, however, argued that he could not return her marijuana because in doing so his office would be violating federal drug distribution laws.
The Arizona Court of Appeals disagreed with the sheriff on Thursday, upholding the lower courts ruling to return Okun’s marijuana.
The appellate court ordered the marijuana returned, saying it never should have been confiscated in the first place, as it was not subject to forfeiture under Arizona law.
“The Sheriff is immune from prosecution under the federal law for acts taken in compliance with a court order,” the three-judge panel wrote in their decision.
The appellate court refused to consider the state’s argument that the state’s medical-marijuana law is pre-empted by federal law.