Arizona is known for its gorgeous natural landscapes and hot summers, but their strict marijuana laws separate the state from their more-lenient neighbors California, Nevada, and Colorado. If you’re looking to visit the state, be sure to brush up on their cannabis laws before you go.
Medical Marijuana in Arizona
Arizona residents can obtain a medical marijuana permit through the ADHS. To apply for a permit, you must fill out an application or attestation form. This can be done for adults, or for potential users under the age of 18. If you have documents to prove a medical condition, you could qualify for medical marijuana in Arizona. Conditions recognized by the ADHS are cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s, and other debilitating or chronic conditions. Again, medical users can only obtain up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks or grow 12 plants if they are more than 25 miles away from the nearest dispensary.
Possession/Consumption of Cannabis
It is illegal to possess any amount of cannabis under Arizona’s marijuana laws, with the exception of medical card holders. If you are not a medical marijuana user, and you are caught with cannabis, you could face felony charges because it is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
Under Arizona’s law, possession of marijuana is split into a few categories. The least serious offense is a Class 6 felony, when the amount found on your person is less than two pounds, intended for personal use. Class 6 felonies are punished by a minimum sentence of six months, and a maximum sentence of two years. It comes with a hefty fine at $1,000 minimum. Remember, this is the least serious offense. If you’re caught with between two and four pound of cannabis, the punishment is the same, with a maximum sentence extended to two and a half years.
If you are caught with a personal-use amount over four pounds, the minimum sentence extends to a full year, with a maximum sentence just under four years. Each of the punishments require a mandatory 24 hours of community service if the offender is granted probation.
Only medical marijuana cardholders can legally toke up in the state, though it must be done privately. Smoking in public places is always prohibited, though it is legal for medical marijuana users to consume edibles in public, so long as they are not operating a vehicle or behaving irresponsibly.
Only medical marijuana users may grow their own plant in the state of Arizona, and that requires specific conditions. If patients don’t have a dispensary within 25 miles of their home address, they are allowed to grow up to 12 plants for personal use. They must be enclosed in a locked facility, such as a closet or greenhouse. These spaces are supposed to be equipped with security devices that only allow use by the owner, and in order to grow for yourself, you need to be designated as a cultivator by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).
You can also be a designated caregiver under the ADHS, which allows you to grow and dispense medical marijuana to other patients. Caregivers must be 21 years of age, have no previous drug felonies, and be willing to assist no more than five medical marijuana patients.
Selling Marijuana in Arizona
Selling black market cannabis raises the punishment significantly, with a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum of 3.75 years if you’re caught trying to sell under two pounds of marijuana. Community service bumps up to 240 mandatory hours if you’re granted probation after the offense.
If you’re caught selling between two and four pounds, the minimum sentence becomes two years, with a maximum sentence of 8.75 years. When it’s more than four pounds, it becomes a Class 2 felony, with a minimum sentence of two years and a maximum of twelve and a half years.
Impaired Driving in Arizona
It is illegal to drive or operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Doing so falls under the state’s statute for “driving or actual physical control while under the influence”, along with driving under the influence of alcohol. You can get busted for having any metabolites in your body as well, even if you are no longer stoned. This is not the case for medical users who will not be punished just because metabolites were found in their system. However, if you are a medical user and found to be impaired while driving, you can still be hit with a DUI.
The first offense is a misdemeanor, which can mean fines, suspension of license, probation, or even jail time.
Future of Arizona’s Marijuana Laws
In 2016, Arizona voters failed to pass Proposition 205, preventing the state from legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. This came after years of difficulty with the state’s medical marijuana laws, which back in 1996 were supposed to allow the use of medical marijuana with a prescription. Although Proposition 200 was approved by 65 percent of voters, it was quickly repealed a few months later by legislators. It was overturned a couple years later, only to become ineffective due to language that conflicted with federal law.
Another effort to legalize medical marijuana in Arizona failed in 2002, but the state finally passed Proposition 203 in 2010, which legalized the medical use of marijuana. Years after the first attempt, the state was finally able to get stable medical marijuana for its residents.
Last year, an Arizona poll showed strong support for legalization, hinting that the future may not be bleak forever for this strict state. The 2016 proposition failed only by three percent, so it is possible the state could eventually join its neighbors in legalizing recreational cannabis.