Although Arizona and Colorado are neighbors, each state’s attitude toward marijuana use is very different. In fact, Arizona has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country and ended up not successfully passing Proposition 205 in November 2016, which would have legalized recreational marijuana across the state.
First things first: How much marijuana can you legally possess in Arizona? Unless you have a medical marijuana ID card issued by a marijuana doctor (a licensed M.D., D.O., M.D.(H), or N.D. from Arizona), the answer is none. If you do have a medical marijuana card, you can possess up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks (14 days) and grow up to 12 plants.
Current Arizona law views marijuana, called "cannabis" in the laws, as a "Schedule 1" controlled substance. That also includes different forms of marijuana, such as edibles and concentrates. This means that if you have any marijuana on you, you'll face felony charges under Arizona law (A.R.S. §13-3405).
The severity of possession charges will depend on how much marijuana you have. If you’re caught with less than two pounds for personal use, you could face a Class 6 felony, the least serious charge under Arizona marijuana laws. If you get caught with pot without a valid medical marijuana registration card, here's what could happen:
|Possession for personal use, < 2 lbs.||Class 6 felony, possibly reduced to Class 1 misdemeanor||Class 6 felony: Four months to two years Class 1 misdemeanor: up to six months; probation for first- and second-time non-violent offenders||Minimum: $750 or three times the value of marijuana involved (as determined by court), whichever is greater
It is illegal in Arizona to purchase marijuana unless you have a medical marijuana ID card and obtain it from a state-run dispensary (see below). If you have a medical marijuana card, you can purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks.
Although The Marijuana Policy Project — the nonprofit group instrumental in legalizing medical marijuana in Arizona — had worked tirelessly to get a recreational marijuana-legalization initiative on the ballot, the majority of Arizona voters rejected the proposal. As a result, Arizona will remain medical only.
Currently, some Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries are open as early as 8 AM and close as late as 10 PM. The hours of medical marijuana dispensaries are unlikely to change in the near future.
As the law stands now, only those with valid medical marijuana registration cards may consume marijuana legally. If you smoke medical marijuana in Arizona, you have to do it privately. Smoking is prohibited on all forms of public transportation and in any public place. You also cannot medicate at a dispensary or it could lose its license.
However, Arizona does allow you to consume medical marijuana in edible form in public, so long as you're not operating a vehicle or doing anything else that could constitute negligence if you're high.
Driving Under the Influence
Arizona statute §28-1381 makes it illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, OR while any drug or a metabolite thereof is in the body. A person who is registered as a qualifying medical marijuana use patient (see following section) won't be found guilty of driving under the influence solely because marijuana metabolites were found in his/her system. Driving under the influence (DUI) is a misdemeanor (first offense) punishable by fines, a license suspension, probation and even jail time.
Medical Marijuana in Arizona
In 2010, Arizona voters passed Proposition 203, legalizing the medical use of marijuana under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). In order to use medical marijuana, you must be a qualifying patient who has registered with the Arizona Department of Health Services and received a registry identification card (medical marijuana card). To qualify as an Arizona medical marijuana patient, you must meet the follow criteria:
- At least 18 years old
- Have valid government-issued ID
- Have Arizona residential address
- Have medical records of past year and provide them to physician
- Must have a "debilitating medical condition," which includes diseases such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe and chronic pain
- Severe nausea
Getting a Medical Marijuana Card
If you meet the above standards, the next step is to schedule an appointment with a doctor to obtain a Physician Certification Form. In addition to the cost of the doctor's visit, you will need to pay a $150 application fee to receive your card. Once you or your doctor's office submits your application, ADHS should mail your card to you within five business days. Note that you'll need to renew your card every year.
Out-of-State ID Card Reciprocity
If you're visiting Arizona and have a valid medical marijuana registration card from another state, you can possess and use marijuana in Arizona. However, you won't be able to get medical marijuana from an Arizona dispensary with an out-of-state ID card due to statutory limitations. No matter how much marijuana you're allowed in your home state, you can only possess and use up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana while in Arizona.
Where to Get Medical Marijuana
Patients with medical marijuana cards can obtain marijuana through dispensaries or growing their own, if approved by ADHS to cultivate. The ADHS website has a list of state-licensed dispensaries to help you identify the one closest to you or you can visit our directory on PotGuide.com. If the nearest dispensary is 25 miles or more away from your residence, you can grow up to 12 plants.
Remember that qualifying patients can only purchase and possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. Additionally, medical marijuana cannot be smoked in public places, such as schools and parks. However, qualifying patients can consume marijuana in edible form in public places.
Under existing Arizona law, you can only grow your own weed under two conditions: First, as we mentioned earlier, medical marijuana patients can grow up to 12 plants of their own if they don't have a dispensary within 25 miles of their homes. The plants have to be grown in an "enclosed, locked facility," which the law defines as a "closet, room, greenhouse, or other enclosed area equipped with locks or security devices that permit access only by a cardholder." To grow with the law's blessing, you will also need ADHS to designate you as a medical marijuana cultivator.
ADHS-designated caregivers can also grow and dispense medical marijuana for one to five medical marijuana patients. To be a caregiver, you have to be 21 years or older, agree to assist up to five medical marijuana patients, and have no previous drug felonies.
If Arizona legalizes marijuana in 2016, recreational cultivation will become legal. The proposal that might appear on the ballot lets you grow up to six marijuana plants at home for personal use, with no more than 12 plants growing at a single residence at a time. Recreational users would also have to respect the same facility restrictions as medical marijuana growers, cultivating only in an "enclosed, locked facility."
- Arizona Criminal Code
- University of Arizona Student Legal Services Misdemeanor Guide
- Arizona Prop 200
- Arizona Department of Health Services
- Five Things Arizonans Should Know about Colorado Marijuana Laws
- Safer Arizona Marijuana Legalization Political Action Committee
- Ballot Measure Will Ask Arizonans to Legalize Marijuana
- Marijuana Policy Project
- Model for AZ Legalization Initiative - Nevada's Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
- Arizona FAQ Qualifying Medical Marijuana Patients