Consequences of Getting a Medical Card in Arizona

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Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Card in Arizona

Arizona’s medical marijuana card offers several benefits to registered patients and caregivers, including legal protection from marijuana-related arrests, lower spending on cannabis purchases, and higher cultivation limits.

Legal Protection

In Arizona, holding a medical marijuana card provides legal protection to the cardholder, shielding them from prosecution for possessing and purchasing medical cannabis within approved limits. The card also allows the cardholder to cultivate marijuana at home if there is no medical marijuana dispensary located within 25 miles of their residence.

While the state does not mandate that medical marijuana users always carry their cards, it is advisable to do so, as law enforcement or dispensaries may request verification. Alongside the medical marijuana card, a valid government-issued ID is typically required to confirm the cardholder's identity.

Lower Prices

Possessing an Arizona medical marijuana card allows the cardholder to purchase cannabis products at lower prices. Since medical marijuana and medical marijuana products are exempted from the 16% excise tax on cannabis products, eligible patients can purchase medical marijuana products at prices lower than the costs of comparable recreational cannabis products. Also, medical marijuana products are often discounted by dispensaries in Arizona to help patients afford healthcare costs.

Higher Purchase and/or Possession Limits

Arizona medical marijuana cardholders are allowed to buy and possess higher amounts of cannabis compared to recreational users. While recreational marijuana users are only permitted to purchase 1 ounce of marijuana with no more than 5 grams of that amount in marijuana concentrate form, medical marijuana cardholders can purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in any form or combination including concentrates and dried flowers.

Higher Cultivation Limits

Although cannabis cultivation in Arizona is legal for both recreational and medical marijuana users, MMJ patients with valid MMJ cards are allowed to cultivate more marijuana plants than persons without medical marijuana cards. If you have an unexpired Arizona medical marijuana card, you can grow up to 12 marijuana plants at home. Recreational users who do not have medical marijuana cards cannot cultivate more than 6 marijuana plants at home.

Access for Minors

An Arizona medical marijuana card allows a person under the age of 21 to use marijuana. Under the state’s recreational cannabis law, you must be 21 or older to be able to use cannabis legally. However, if you have a medical marijuana card, you can use marijuana if you are 18 or older. Also, if you are younger than 18, you may still qualify to use marijuana for medical purposes via the assistance of a caregiver.

Reciprocity

A state that has a medical marijuana reciprocity law allows visitors with medical marijuana cards from their home states to purchase medical marijuana and medical marijuana products within its borders. States where you may use an Arkansas medical marijuana card to purchase medical marijuana include Utah, Maine, Nevada, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.

Employment Protections

According to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), unless a failure to do so would result in an employer forfeiting a monetary- or licensing-related benefit per federal law, an employer is not permitted to discriminate against an MMJ cardholder in hiring, termination, or imposing any term of employment or otherwise punish the Arizona MMJ cardholder based upon either:

The applicant's or employee's status as a cardholder

  • An applicant's or employee's positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites, unless the applicant or employee possessed, used, or was impaired by marijuana on workplace premises or during employment hours
  • Although employers are generally prohibited from discriminating against medical marijuana cardholders, the AMMA does not mandate that employers permit employees to use marijuana in the workplace. Employers retain the right to prohibit employees from carrying out their duties under the influence of marijuana. However, note that being "under the influence" does not include registered qualifying patients who may have detectable metabolites of marijuana that are insufficient to cause impairment

Downsides of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Arizona

Some of the downsides of obtaining an Arizona medical marijuana card include driving restrictions, gun rights loss, renewal inconveniences, and federal restrictions.

Firearm Prohibition

Although nothing in Arizona laws prohibits a medical marijuana patient from owning guns, federal law states otherwise. Note that cannabis is a Schedule I Controlled Substance, and the ATF made clear in an open letter to gun sellers that persons using or addicted to marijuana, regardless of marijuana legalization status in their state, are unlawful marijuana users. Consequently, such persons may not be allowed to purchase firearms or ammunition. If you are caught with a gun and are verified to hold an Arizona medical marijuana card, you risk federal prosecution.

Driving Restrictions

Although medical marijuana cardholders are allowed to operate motor vehicles, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. Arizona is a zero-tolerance state, meaning that the slightest hint of THC in a driver's blood sample, including that of medical marijuana card-holding patients, is considered an offense. Hence, even if you are not impaired, you may be arrested. First-time offenders who are convicted may be punished with up to 180 days in jail, up to $1,800 in fines, and 5 years of probation. In addition, the offender may be instructed to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle once they are eligible to drive.

Since commercial driver's license regulations are set under federal law, persons with Arizona medical marijuana laws are ineligible to apply for a commercial driver's license. Note that to obtain a CDL, an applicant must pass a drug test pursuant to 49 CFR Part 40.

Annual Renewal

Owning a medical marijuana card in Arizona comes with the drawback of periodic renewals, both in terms of time and cost. Medical cannabis cards are generally valid for 2 years in the state. The renewal process requires cardholders to go through the application process again, with a new photograph and patient attestation form required.

When renewing a medical marijuana card in Arizona, registered patients are required to consult with their recommending medical providers to obtain new physician certifications. These consultations can happen during in-person or telemedicine appointments. These follow-up appointments add to the overall expense of maintaining a medical marijuana card. While the average cost of such consultations varies, it typically costs between $100 and $300.

The fee for a renewal application for an Arizona medical marijuana card is $150. If the cardholder is eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), there is a 50% discount on the $150 fee, meaning that the applicant will pay $75. If the applicant is a minor patient, the fee is $350 or $275 if the minor patient is eligible for SNAP. The renewal application fee for a minor patient is inclusive of the caregiver application renewal fee.

Federal Prohibitions

It is important to consider the potential conflicts between state and federal laws regarding marijuana use when it comes to taking advantage of federal opportunities. The interplay between state and federal regulations can have significant implications for individuals seeking both medical marijuana access and federal opportunities.

Individuals holding an Arizona medical marijuana card may face complications when applying for federal employment. Federal law prohibits the use of marijuana, regardless of state legalization, and it may impact eligibility for federal positions. Also, federal employees obtaining an Arizona medical marijuana card risk losing their jobs if they fail drug tests or are determined to be marijuana users through other means.

Living in federally subsidized housing in Arizona may also pose issues for possessing or cultivating marijuana on such a property. Federal law governs subsidized housing and the use or cultivation of marijuana conflicts with federal regulations. Therefore, residents in federally subsidized housing in Arizona are expected to adhere to federal laws that classify marijuana as illegal.

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