Arizona Marijuana Laws

  1. Arizona Cannabis
  2. Arizona Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • Marijuana is legal for recreational and medical use in Arizona.

  • Persons 21 and older may purchase marijuana. However, it is illegal to smoke marijuana in public.

  • It is legal to possess up to one ounce or less of marijuana.

  • It is legal to grow up to six plants per household.

  • There are penalties for possession, sale, and cultivation above the legal limit.

Is Marijuana Legal in Arizona?

Yes. Arizona has made medical and adult-use marijuana legal. The state legalized medical cannabis on its third attempt and took two attempts to make recreational cannabis legal. There were strong oppositions towards making marijuana legal in Arizona. These oppositions came from the state's legislators, governors, law enforcement agencies, and Chamber of Commerce. However, the legalization of cannabis got the popular vote in the state.

Arizona finally legalized medical marijuana in 2010 through Proposition 203 or the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. It took another decade to make recreational marijuana legal in the state. Voters got this legislation through by supporting Proposition 207 at the 2020 general ballot.

Arizona Marijuana Laws in 2022

The most recent change to Arizona's marijuana laws is the passage of the Smart and Safe Act, or Proposition 207, in November 2020. This legalized recreational marijuana in the state and allowed adults, aged 21 and older, to possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of cannabis with no more than 5 grams of cannabis concentrate. They can also transfer up to 1 ounce of marijuana to other adults as long as such transfers do not constitute a sale and they get no remuneration for it. The Act also allows adult residents to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants in their homes. Homes with two or more adults can cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants.

Sale of recreational cannabis in licensed marijuana dispensaries only began in January 2021 in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) was tasked with implementing rules and regulations for retail sales of medical and recreational marijuana. With regards to the latter, the ADHS was mandated to have the rules governing the sale of adult-use cannabis in place by June 1, 2021. Before these rules come into place, municipalities regulate the sale of recreational cannabis in the state and enforce local laws.

In addition to establishing age, amount, and cultivation limits for recreational marijuana, the Smart and Safe Act also created a 16% excise tax on adult-use cannabis sale in the state. This Act also modified some of the state's criminal laws by allowing the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions from offenders' criminal records.

Just like it did for medical marijuana, Arizona prohibits anyone from using marijuana and marijuana products in public. The state especially prohibits consuming cannabis on a school bus, on the grounds of a school, and in a correctional facility. Arizona also restricts the number of marijuana pharmacies that can open in the state. Currently, its marijuana laws mandate that the ADHS can only issue one medical marijuana dispensary license for every 10 pharmacy permits issued by the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy.

By January 2021 when the sale of recreational marijuana first began, the ADHS had approved 73 dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis. As of September 2022, there are 169 established recreational marijuana dispensaries with 133 operation facilities in Arizona.

As part of adopting the new proposition 207, relating to adult-use marijuana, the law requires the department to adopt new rules relating to marijuana, marijuana products, establishments, and testing facilities. The first set of rules became effective in January 2021. In 2022, these regulations were revised and came into effect in September 2022.

The department does not permit the delivery of adult-use marijuana in 2022. However, the department is set to adopt rules regulating the delivery of marijuana establishments between January 2023 and January 2025 to allow for the delivery of recreational marijuana.

Timeline of Сannabis Law in Arizona

Arizona's changes to its cannabis laws over the years are as follows:

  • 1996: Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, the Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act. The Act permits doctors to prescribe cannabis for some terminal or debilitating illnesses. The Act also amends the law to include probation rather than jail time for nonviolent drug offenses.

  • 1997: House Bill 2518, signed into law by the governor, repealed some provisions in Proposition 200. The Bill permits doctors to prescribe cannabis for patients only when authorized by the federal government.

  • 2002: Arizona’s first attempt to decriminalize adult-use marijuana through Proposition 203. The bill aimed to legalize the possession of 2 ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of two plants per household.

  • 2010: Proposition 203, known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, legalized the medical use of cannabis. The Act permits qualifying patients with certain medical conditions to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The Act also allows patients within 25 miles of a dispensary to grow cannabis.

  • 2012: The first legal sales of medical marijuana commenced.

  • 2016: Arizonians voted against Proposition 205 - The Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The initiative aimed to legalize the adult use of cannabis and allow possession of up to one ounce and cultivation of up to six plants.

  • 2019: Governor Ducey signs Senate Bill 1494 into law. The Bill requires dispensaries to test the potency and contaminants in medical marijuana by third-party laboratories.

  • 2020: The possession and cultivation of marijuana became legal through Proposition 207. The Act known as Smart and Safe Arizona legalizes the recreational use of marijuana. The Act permits adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants per household.

  • 2021: The sale of marijuana for recreational use began.

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2022

In 2022, the House passed legislation to decriminalize marijuana. The Act, referred to as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, removes marijuana as a controlled substance from the Controlled Substance Act. It also eradicates all criminal charges for marijuana possession, distribution, and manufacture. Further changes proposed in the bill include:

  • Replacing marijuana with cannabis.

  • The regular publishing of demographic data for businesses and their employees involved in the cannabis trade.

  • A trust fund to support programs and services for persons, businesses, and communities negatively impacted by drug wars.

  • It requires the Department of Education to investigate the impact of state recreational cannabis law on school-aged children.

  • The bill imposes an excise tax for cannabis produced or imported into the United States and an occupational tax for cannabis export warehouses and production facilities.

  • It requires persons with certain cannabis convictions to be granted access to federal public benefits.

  • It grants access to benefits and protection under immigration laws for persons with certain cannabis-related conduct or conviction.

  • The bill provides for loans to entities involved in the legitimate cannabis business and cannabis service providers.

  • It requires the National Institute for Occupational Safety Administration to research the impact of recreational cannabis in the workplace.

  • It advocates for record expungement for convictions and conducts sentencing relating to federal cannabis offenses.

  • The bill directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to implement new ways of determining a motorist impaired by marijuana.

  • It authorizes the Government Accountability Office to research the societal impact of cannabis in states that have legalized recreational use.

Can I Use Cannabis?

Yes. Adults aged 21 and older and qualifying patients (including minors) can use cannabis in Arizona. In addition to dried marijuana flowers, Arizona's marijuana laws also permits other forms of the drug including extracts, concentrates, hashish, edibles, topicals, salves, and capsules.

Cannabis is a flowering plant known for the psychoactive properties of one of its constituents, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC can alter mood and perception. This ability to affect brain function as well as its addictive potential are responsible for classifying it as a controlled substance. The 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) banned cannabis use in the US and led to its widespread criminalization. In the last two decades, new laws and reforms in different states have begun to roll back the national ban on cannabis and cannabis products.

How the Legal Sale of Cannabis in Arizona Happens

Arizona requires patients requiring medical marijuana to meet the ADHS condition, join the state's medical marijuana registry, and hold medical marijuana registry identification cards. Adult patients and patients under the age of 18 can apply for these ID cards. Minors must name their parents or legal guardians as caregivers and submit written certifications from two physicians to qualify for Arizona's medical marijuana registry.

While purchasing medical marijuana requires a registry ID card, Arizona only requires that dispensaries sell recreational cannabis to adults aged 21 and older. Dispensaries may request buyers' photo IDs to confirm their identities, ages, and residency.

The legal sale of cannabis in Arizona only happens in licensed dispensaries. A dispensary may apply for a medical, adult-use, or dual license to sell marijuana and marijuana products. All medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona are non-profit entities. Therefore, a dispensary applying for a dual license will possess a non-profit medical marijuana dispensary registration certificate and a marijuana establishment license.

In addition to dried marijuana flowers and hash, Arizona permits recreational marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana concentrates and cannabis edible candies and sodas. The state's marijuana laws also legalize the sale of marijuana paraphernalia to adults.

Penalties for Marijuana-Related Crimes in Arizona

Arizona has strict marijuana laws and punishes the use, possession, transportation, cultivation of marijuana and marijuana products violating these laws. Most marijuana crimes in Arizona are classified as felonies. Arizona marijuana possession laws are as follows:

  • Possession of more than 1 ounce and up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana is a petty offense punishable by up to $300 in fines

  • Possession of more than 2.5 ounces and up to 2 pounds of marijuana is a Class 4 felony punishable by a maximum fine of $150,000 and an incarceration lasting between 6 and 18 months

  • Possession of more than 2 pounds but less than 4 pounds of marijuana is a Class 5 felony punishable by up to $150,000 in fines and an incarceration lasting 9 months - 2 years

  • Possession of more than 4 pounds of marijuana is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to $150,000 in fines and a prison term between 18 months and 3 years

Arizona laws determine that an individual possessing marijuana over the legal threshold intends to sell the controlled substance. The penalties for possession with intent to distribute are the same as the sale of marijuana in Arizona.

  • Illegal sale of less than 2 pounds of marijuana is a Class 4 felony punishable by an imprisonment lasting 18 months - 3 years and a maximum fine of $150,000.

  • Possession of 2 - 4 pounds of marijuana with an intent to distribute and sell is a Class 3 felony punishable by a prison term of 30 months to 7 years and up to $150,000 in fines.

  • Illegal sale of more than 4 pounds of marijuana is a Class 2 felony punishable by a maximum fine of $150,000 and a prison term lasting 4 - 10 years.

It is unlawful to cultivate marijuana above the legal limit. Cultivation of more than 6 marijuana plants is a felony punishable by up to $150,000 in fines and incarceration lasting between 9 months and 7 years.

Anyone guilty of Arizona marijuana trafficking laws faces the following penalties depending on the weight of the marijuana:

  • Illegal delivery of less than 2 pounds of marijuana for sale is a Class 3 felony punishable by a maximum fine of $150,000 and between 2.5 and 7 years imprisonment.

  • Trafficking 2 pounds or marijuana or more is a Class 2 felony punishable by a maximum fine of $150,000 and between 4 and 10 years in prison.

In Arizona, marijuana distribution is the transporting or importing of marijuana into the state with the intent to sell or transfer and receive remuneration for it. Violating Arizona marijuana distribution laws attracts the following penalties:

  • Distributing less than two pounds: Distributing under two pounds of marijuana is a class three felony with a minimum jail sentence of two years and a maximum of seven years. The courts impose a fine of not less than $750 or three times the value of the marijuana involved, whichever is higher.

  • Distributing over two pounds: It is a class two felony with a jail term of three to ten years. In addition, the court imposes a fine of $750 or an amount determined to be thrice the value of the marijuana, whichever is greater.

Possession, manufacture, and sale of hash and concentrates in Arizona attracts the following penalties:

  • Possession of 5 grams to up to 12.5 grams of hashish and marijuana concentrates is a petty offense punishable by up to $300 in fines

  • Possession of 12.5 grams or more of hashish and marijuana concentrates is a felony punishable by a prison time ranging from 12 months to 45 months and up to $150,000 in fines

  • Illegal manufacture, sale, or trafficking of hashish and marijuana concentrates is a felony punishable by a maximum fine of $150,000 and a prison time between 3 years and 12.5 years

Arizona does not consider the use or purchase of marijuana paraphernalia illegal and does not penalize these acts. Although medical and recreational marijuana is legal in Arizona, It is still unlawful to drive under the influence of marijuana. Arizona’s law prohibits anyone from driving or being in control of a motor vehicle while impaired by marijuana. The consequence for a marijuana DUI includes:

  • First Offense: A first-time conviction for a marijuana DUI is a jail sentence of 10 - 180 days and fines and jail costs of up to $1,800. The court suspends the license for 90 days and places the individual on probation for up to five years. Lastly, mandatory community service and attendance of an approved traffic survival course.

  • Second Offense: A person convicted of a DUI a second time gets a prison sentence of 90-180 days. The total fine, including jail costs, is $3,500. In addition, probation for up to five years and license revocation for a year. The individual must serve 30 hours in community restitution and attend an approved traffic survival course or a drug treatment/education program.

  • Third Offense: It is a class four aggravated felony with a minimum incarceration period of four months and fines not exceeding $150,000. In addition, license invalidation for three years and mandated probation for five years. In some cases, the State may seize the offender's vehicle.

Conduct violating Arizona’s marijuana consumption laws include:

  • Although medical and recreational marijuana is legal in Arizona, residents may only consume cannabis privately. Proposition 207 makes it illegal to consume cannabis in public places, including playgrounds, parks, schools, and recreation grounds.

  • It is also unlawful to consume marijuana on the premises of a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary. Marijuana consumption on the premises of public spaces is a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines only.

Persons arrested for violating Arizona marijuana laws can have their charges dropped based on a skilled defense relevant to the defendant’s charge. Possible remedies for defendants for violating Arizona’s marijuana laws include:

  • The defendant is a medical marijuana patient and can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

  • The law enforcement officer did not have tenable cause to obtain a search warrant but found marijuana during the search. The marijuana found during the illegal search is inadmissible in court.

  • The defendant was unaware of the marijuana in their possession. Therefore, the defendant did not knowingly possess the marijuana.

  • The arresting officer violated the defendant's rights. For instance, failure to read the accused their right before the arrest.

  • Law enforcement officers denied the accused their right to have a criminal defense attorney.

  • There were errors in the police paperwork, including false statements, improper photo lineups, incorrect DNA testing, and flawed crime scene reconstruction.

  • The defendant can work with the prosecution, offering information leading to the arrest of other persons in the marijuana trafficking ring. In return, the courts can grant the defendant a reduced to no jail sentence or fines, community service instead of incarceration, mandatory drug rehabilitation/education program, and probation.

Per Arizona law, the government may confiscate any asset used in the commissioning of a marijuana crime or any asset purchased from the proceeds of marijuana upon conviction of the offender. Assets confiscated may include property, money, records, cars, jewelry, equipment, and valuables. Arizona law permits the confiscation of assets and proceeds for marijuana crimes with a penalty exceeding a one-year jail term or a marijuana violation committed for financial gains.

Additional Arizona Marijuana Limitations

Arizona marijuana limitations also include the following:

  • Arizona marijuana law does not require employers to accommodate the possession, consumption, sale, or transfer of marijuana in the workplace.

  • Despite the legalization of marijuana, the law does not require employers to maintain policies restricting marijuana in the workplace.

  • Based on Proposition 207, law enforcement officers can no longer search without a warrant, even if they smell marijuana.

  • Being a registered patient in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program does not prevent the imposition of criminal or civil penalties following a marijuana violation.

  • Arizona law does not restrict owners of private residences from prohibiting their residents from smoking marijuana in the building.

  • Medical marijuana patients cannot possess marijuana within an educational institution or correctional facility.

  • Despite the legalization of cannabis in Arizona, undertaking any task while impaired by marijuana constitutes negligence and therefore does not prevent a criminal or civil penalty.

What Is Arizona's Cannabis History?

For most of the 1900s, cannabis was illegal in Arizona with the state prohibiting its cultivation, distribution, use, sale, and possession. The earliest reports of state law enforcement arresting residents for marijuana-related crimes comes from the 1920s. The path to legalizing cannabis in Arizona led to the first attempt to approve medical marijuana in 1996 with Proposition 200 or the Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act. This reform initiative sought to allow physicians to prescribe cannabis to patients with medical conditions suitable for marijuana therapy.

However, the Arizona state legislature repealed the Act a few months later. Arizonians voted overwhelmingly in a 1998 referendum to annul the repeal. Unfortunately, the wording of the Act was its undoing. It used the word "prescribed" rather than "recommended" for providing medical marijuana to patients and, therefore, ran afoul of the federal law prohibiting marijuana use.

Arizona made another attempt to legalize medical marijuana in 2002 with Proposition 203. This initiative also sought to make recreational marijuana legal in the state. However, it failed with 42.7% of the vote and was opposed by the two Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates in that year's election as well as the state's law enforcement.

Arizona's third attempt at legalizing medical marijuana was Proposition 203 put to vote in November 2010. It passed with a slim margin of 50.1% of the vote. It passed despite opposition from the governor, the attorney general, and all of the sheriffs and county prosecutors in Arizona. The governor and attorney general tried to stop medical marijuana legalization by contesting its provisions in federal court in May 2011 but that case was dismissed in January 2012. The governor then moved to ban medical cannabis on college campuses in May 2012 but an Arizona Supreme Court ruling six years later concluded that the ban was unconstitutional.

Following the legalization of medical cannabis, supporters of marijuana use started taking steps for Arizona to legalize recreational cannabis. Their first attempt was Proposition 205 placed on the ballot in the November 2016 general election. It failed with 48.7% of the vote and was strongly opposed by the state's governor and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Four years later, the Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Dispensaries Association sponsored a second attempt to legalize adult-use cannabis by putting Proposition 207 on the general ballot. It passed with 60.03% of the vote on November 3, 2020 and led to the creation of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry tried to get Proposition 207 removed from the 2020 ballot but their claims were struck down by a unanimous decision of the Arizona Supreme Court. Arizona showed that it was ready to legalize recreational cannabis by speeding up its retail sale. The first dispensaries offering adult-use cannabis started selling marijuana less than 3 months after the vote on Proposition 207, making Arizona the fastest state to go from legalizing recreational marijuana to offering it for sale.

What are Restrictions on Cannabis in Arizona

While Arizona was eager to start selling recreational cannabis, the state's marijuana laws are still very strict and it places certain restrictions on how its residents can grow, process, distribute, use, and sell cannabis. Some of these limits include:

  • Only adults aged 21 or older can buy recreational cannabis in the state. They also can only buy and possess 1 ounce of marijuana, cannabis-infused products with no more than 1 ounce of marijuana, or no more than 5 grams of marijuana in concentrate form

  • An adult aged 21 or older can transfer up to 1 ounce of marijuana to another adult aged 21 or older. Such transfer must not be remunerated

  • Patients with qualifying medical conditions, and their designated caregivers, can only purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. They can also only transfer up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis to other patients, or their caregivers, as long as such transfers are not remunerated

  • An adult can only grow up to 6 marijuana plants at home. Homes with multiple adults are allowed up to 12 plants. Patients and their caregivers also have a limit of 12 plants but can only cultivate marijuana plants if they live more than 25 miles from the nearest medical marijuana dispensaries. All cultivated plants must be out of public view. All marijuana products, including plants, must be kept in secured containers and enclosures

  • Visiting out-of-state patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana but cannot buy medical marijuana in Arizona. Such patients must be able to prove that they were diagnosed with medical conditions deemed qualifying for medical cannabis in Arizona, that they are not residents of the state and haven't resided in Arizona for 30 days or more, and have medical marijuana ID cards from their home states

  • It is illegal to smoke marijuana in a public place, including in personal vehicles. Patients may consume cannabis edibles in public. It is illegal to drive any vehicle under the influence of medical or recreational marijuana

Arizona Marijuana Laws