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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
The sheriff’s department in Yuma, Arizona, must return a stash of marijuana seized from an Encinitas woman at a Border Patrol checkpoint two years ago, an Arizona appeals court has ruled.
Valerie Okun was stopped at the checkpoint just northeast of the California and Mexican borders when officers found and confiscated her marijuana and smoking paraphernalia, despite Okun’s effort to identify herself as a legal medical marijuana patient in the state of California by presenting identification to prove her claims.
Okun later beat drug charges filed against her by the state of Arizona by proving the legitimacy of her documents as a qualified patient in the California Medical Marijuana Program, which affords her protection under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act as well.
But Arizona balked when a county judge ordered Okun’s medicine returned, citing the federal Controlled Substance Act, and claiming that state law required the forfeiture of any seized drugs.
Three appellate judges affirmed the ruling in favor of Okun late last week.
“Because Arizona law allows Okun to possess the marijuana, it is not subject to forfeiture under state law,” wrote Judge Diane Johnsen on behalf of the panel, adding that the sheriff had immunity from the federal law, as the office “has no 'personal stake' in whether the federal Controlled Substances Act might invalidate Okun's right under the [Arizona Medical Marijuana Act] to possess an allowable amount of marijuana.”