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.
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 July 2023, there are 169 established recreational marijuana dispensaries with 148 operating 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 2023. However, it is set to adopt rules marijuana establishments before January 2025 to allow for the delivery of recreational marijuana.
Arizona's changes to its cannabis laws over the years are as follows:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
Possession, manufacture, and sale of hash and concentrates in Arizona attracts the following penalties:
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:
Conduct violating Arizona’s marijuana consumption laws include:
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:
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.
Arizona marijuana limitations also include the following:
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.
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: