Many people embrace the idea of medical marijuana legalization. Over 150,000 registered people in Arizona use a medical marijuana card to their benefit. But if you use doctor-recommended marijuana for pain or other conditions, you need to know the offenses you risk and penalties of being charged with those offenses. After all, Arizona has some of the strictest laws in the country, when it comes to related offenses like drugged driving and marijuana use, possession and sale. The tough stance was made clearer for many people who expected the November 2016 Arizona Prop 205 to pass. But that proposition legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state did not pass.
Laws Regarding Possession of Marijuana in Arizona
Without a doctor-issued medical marijuana ID card you cannot legally possess marijuana in the state of Arizona. But with one of these doctor-issued IDs, you can possess up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana (the dried flower, mixtures or preparations, such as resin or hashish, made from 2.5 ounces of dried flowers), within a 14 day period. You may also grow up to 12 plants for your own use.
Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the state. This includes marijuana edibles and concentrates. Any type of marijuana in your possession beyond the state maximum puts you at risk for felony drug charges under Arizona law.
The amount of marijuana in your possession determines the severity of your charges. Being caught with under two pounds of the drug for personal use puts you at risk of a Class 6 felony. This is the least serious Arizona marijuana drug charge, but still brings potential for stiff penalties.
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How Much Marijuana can I Legally Buy at Once in Arizona?
Buying marijuana with a legal Arizona medical marijuana ID card must take place at a state-operated dispensary. By having a medical marijuana card, you can legally purchase up to 2.5 ounces of the drug every two weeks. But without a medical marijuana ID card, you are not legally allowed to purchase, use or possess marijuana in the state.
Legal marijuana dispensaries regulated by the state operate during daytime and evening hours. Some open as early as 8:00 in the morning. The latest these dispensaries close is 10:00 p.m., with each location having its own hours and days of operation under the state’s watchful eye. You can find a list of these Arizona medical marijuana dispensary locations on the AZMMCC website.
You can also grow your own marijuana plants, if you live 25 miles or more from the closest medical marijuana dispensary. The current limit on the number of personal-use plants is one dozen. You must be approved by the Arizona Department of Health Services to cultivate your own marijuana, however.
Where can I use my Arizona Medical Marijuana Card (MMJ Card)?
When you possess a legal medical marijuana ID card in Arizona, you can privately use the product in any form sold through state run dispensaries. You cannot smoke the product in public, with it being prohibited in public transportation, schools, parks and in any public place, including at the dispensary.
Marijuana edibles may be consumed in public so long as you are not driving or otherwise doing anything potentially leading to negligence.
You cannot be in actual physical control of your motor vehicle while using or just after using medical marijuana, when you experience impairment. In fact, you risk driver’s license suspension and a wide range of penalties for operating your vehicle under the influence of marijuana or while the drug’s metabolites remain in your body. These charges often lead to jail time.
Getting Your Medical Marijuana ID Card in Arizona
To obtain, possess and use medical marijuana legally, you must have a doctor-approved medical marijuana ID card. This card comes from the Arizona Department of Health Services under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). To obtain your medical marijuana ID card you must meet specific guidelines, including:
- Minimum age of 18 years
- Valid government issued ID
- Arizona residential address
- Past 12 months’ medical records provided to approving physician
- Debilitating medical condition, including:
- Severe chronic pain
- Severe nausea
By meeting these standards you become eligible to visit a medical marijuana approving doctor. This licensed health care provider provides you with a Physician Certification Form. The doctor’s office submits your application for a legal medical marijuana ID card through the Arizona Department of Health Services. Within five business days and if the ADHS approves your doctor’s application, your medical marijuana ID card is mailed to you. You must renew this card every year, repeating the process.
If you visit Arizona and possess a medical marijuana registration ID card in your home state, you can use and possess the drug in the state. But you cannot purchase medical marijuana from state-run dispensaries while in Arizona. You also must remain within the legal limits of 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana (the dried flower, mixtures or preparations, such as resin or hashish, made from 2.5 ounces of dried flowers) in your possession at a given time during every two weeks. In other words, your home state’s authorization to use your marijuana in that state applies to time spent traveling in Arizona, while remaining within Arizona’s legal limits.
Growing Your Own Medical Marijuana in Arizona
As previously said, you may be permitted to grow your own medical marijuana in Arizona if you possess a medical marijuana ID card and the state’s authorization to do so. Your marijuana cultivation must meet two conditions:
- You do not reside within 25 miles of a licensed medical marijuana dispensary
- You gain ADHS designation as a legal personal-use medical marijuana cultivator
Under these conditions, your plant growth must meet other standards. Standards for growing your own medical marijuana in Arizona include:
- Maximum of 12 plants at any given time
- Plants grown in an enclosed facility, such as a closet, greenhouse or room
- The enclosed facility must be locked or secured in a manner only allowing your entry
When one caregiver provides care for multiple medical marijuana ID card holders, this caregiver may possess or grow product for those individuals’ use. Caregivers must meet specific requirements, such as:
- At least 21 years of age
- A maximum of five patients for whom you manage medical marijuana use
- No previous drug felonies
Who Should I Talk to if I Face Marijuana-Related Charges?
Whether you hold a medical marijuana ID card or not, if you face marijuana charges in Arizona, you need the immediate help of a top quality marijuana criminal defense lawyer, one with the background and experience to help you get through the state’s tough processes and penalties.
Losing a drug-related case in Arizona brings stiff criminal penalties. But it also brings permanent damage to other areas of your life. These include your relationships, career, finances, reputation, social connections. With so much damage at risk, you cannot afford to succumb to your charges. You need help from an experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer, one with experience in drug cases like yours. With the right lawyer’s help, you can build a strong defense.