Arizona ruling on return of seized pot stands

ARIZONA: The Arizona Supreme Court has declined to consider a high-profile lawsuit over whether police can seize medical marijuana from patients since possession of marijuana still violates federal drug laws.

The court’s Monday decision upholds an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling that required the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office to give back marijuana officers seized from a California woman who legally possessed the drug under California law. Bill Kerekes, chief civil deputy for the Yuma County Attorney’s Office, told The Arizona Republic on Tuesday his agency will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Arizona Court of Appeals in January ruled that the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office must return marijuana to Valerie Okun, who had permission to use the drug for medical purposes.

Okun was stopped in 2011 at a Border Patrol checkpoint near Yuma. Authorities seized marijuana and other contraband from her car. She was cited for violating Arizona drug laws and the case was turned over to Yuma County officials. The charges were dismissed after she showed she was authorized to possess marijuana under California law.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act honors other states’ medical-marijuana cards and allows users to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of the drug.

After the charges were dropped, Okun asked sheriff’s officials to return her marijuana, and the Superior Court granted her request. But the Yuma County sheriff argued that he could not return the pot because doing so may violate the federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes possession, sale or use of marijuana a crime.

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