PHOENIX — A Chandler woman says she was withdrwan from GateWay Community College in Phoenix earlier this semester for using medical marijuana.
Sheida Assar said she's been using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain for seven years and followed the proper channels to get her medical marijuana card from the state's health department. She said using it never interfered with her studies.
She was in GateWay's Diagnostic Medical Sonography program for two semesters before failing a school-mandated drug test. She said she was pulled out of class on Sept. 11, 2019, and escorted from the building.
"It was honestly just so humiliating," Assar says. "They wouldn’t even allow me to grab my lunch box before I was forced to leave. They wouldn’t even let me grab my food. It just makes you feel like, am I a criminal?"
Assar's student handbook warned that something like this could happen. Signs at the Washington campus where Assar was attending say the campus is "drug-free."
But Assar argues the school is in the wrong. She said using medical marijuana never interfered with her studies and it's something she's legally allowed to do in the state of Arizona.
"By even having that in their handbook, their student policies, they are in clear violation with the AMMA, which is the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act," Assar tells.
When asked about Assar's circumstances, a spokesperson for GateWay Community College sent the following statement:
"While we can't speak to the specifics of this particular individual, it is important to understand that our colleges offer several programs of study that require partnerships with employers throughout the Valley for students to receive experiential training opportunities, and those partners set their own conditions for participation in that training."
GateWay Community College released a report in 2018 saying their schools would continue to prohibit marijuana possession and use on campus for any purpose, in accordance with federal law.
Assar plans to hash it out with the school. She wants her tuition money back and even hired a lawyer to help with a discrimination case.
"I waited seven long, gruesome years to wear that uniform with pride and to have it completely pulled out, right from underneath you," she said, "over something that had no effect on my work performance or academic performance at all whatsoever."
Arizona was the 14th state to adopt a medical marijuana law, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, which is the licensing and issuing authority for the state's medical marijuana program. The state's Medical Marijuana Act went into effect in April 2011.
According to the latest numbers for September 2019, ADHS said there are 210,308 medical marijuana cardholders in the state.