Federal and Arizona Medical Marijuana Laws: Know Your Rights
Across the country, people are demanding the right to achieve better wellness through holistic healing practices. Patients deserve to be able to legally choose effective medical care for themselves.
Since Arizona legalized the use of medical cannabis in 2010, patients throughout the state are finding relief through the consumption of high-quality medical marijuana.
Arizona State Law Recognizes Certain Conditions
Arizona medical marijuana laws allow the use of medical marijuana if a patient suffers from one of the following conditions:
- Chronic, severe pain
- Severe nausea
- Persistent or severe muscle spasms
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Physician Must Submit Certification for Any Prescriptions
Written certification is required from a licensed physician. The physician can be a medical doctor, naturopath, osteopath or homeopath who is licensed in the state of Arizona. The certification must be submitted along with an application to the Arizona Department of Health Services and the required fee to receive a registry identification card.Once a patient receives the medical marijuana card, he or she can purchase medication from any dispensary in the state. Patients are not assigned to a dispensary or limited to the one closest to their home.
Arizona Medical Marijuana Laws:
Some Patients Can Grow Their Own Plants
When people receive a medical marijuana registry card, it does not mean they are automatically allowed to cultivate. A designated caregiver or medical marijuana patient may be allowed to grow marijuana only if there is no dispensary within 25 miles of the patient’s home.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has a form on its website for patients to look up whether their residence meets the qualification for growing. The designation is based on the patient’s home, not the caregiver’s home.
- Who Can Grow
To legally grow marijuana, the request to cultivate must be made at the time of the application to become a medical marijuana patient. If the criteria are met, the patient will receive a card with a grow authorization.If a dispensary is operating within 25 miles of the patient’s home address, the card will have a “Not Authorized to Cultivate” status. If a card is issued to a designated caregiver, their card will also be issued as not authorized. If the patient moves, the grow status can be changed.
If the patient lives beyond the 25-mile radius and receives a card with authorization to grow, the patient is not required to grow and can still travel to a dispensary to purchase medication. Even if the patient does grow, they are still allowed to purchase from a dispensary in state.
If a patient receives a card with authorization to grow and a dispensary begins operation within 25 miles of the patient’s residence, the authorization to grow will remain in place until the card is renewed. This keeps the patient from having to constantly check to see if a dispensary has opened closer to home.
Medical Marijuana and Employment in Arizona
Arizona Revised Statute Section 36-2813 prohibits employment discrimination based on an employee being a medical marijuana cardholder. It further prohibits discrimination based on a drug screen registering positive for marijuana if the employee is a registered medical marijuana patient.
There are exceptions to this law. Employers do not have to retain an employee with a positive medical marijuana test if it would result in a negative financial or licensure consequence for the employer.
Additionally, an employer is not required to retain an employee if the individual consumes, possesses or is impaired at the workplace or while performing the duties of their employment.
The Future of Recreational Marijuana in AZ
Proposition 205, a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in the state of Arizona, failed by less than 3 percent in 2017. Then, a movement to get recreational cannabis on the November 6, 2018 ballot failed to garner enough signatures. Pundits say the language of the 2018 effort was too broad, as it called for unlimited possession and nearly unlimited cultivation by individuals and businesses.
However, the country, and even the world, is slowly relaxing its position on marijuana. A 2018 Pew Research survey found that more than 60 percent of Americans support recreational marijuana legalization. As of October 2018, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Considering how close the vote was on Proposition 205, and with the country’s opinion on marijuana still evolving, there is a good chance that recreational use of cannabis is still on the horizon for Arizona citizens, so long as the proposed law is written in a way that voters would agree with. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that full legalization in the state could happen within the next 10 years, but we recommend complying with the law until it changes.
Marijuana Possession and DUI
In 2015, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a ruling confirming that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act of 2010 allows for medical marijuana patients who have been arrested on a marijuana DUI charge to put forward an affirmative defense.
The affirmative defense would need to show evidence that the concentration in their body was not enough to be considered impaired while driving.
- Police Must Prove Impairment
On December 22, 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a ruling that law enforcement agencies in the state must prove that a person was too impaired to drive safely to successfully prosecute them as a DUI offender.The challenge in proving medical marijuana DUI stems from the fact there is no established legal threshold for driving impaired. Further complicating the establishment of a threshold is that someone who consumes medical marijuana regularly could have a higher concentration in their blood even 12 hours after their last dose and yet not be impaired.
- DUI Is Still DUI
Having a possible defense does not mean that the patient won’t be charged or even convicted. Driving under the influence of other prescription drugs can result in a DUI charge, as well.The best practice for the safety of drivers, their passengers and other people on the road is to not drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of any medication that has the potential to impair judgment or driving skills.
- Penalty for Possession Without a Medical Card
Currently, there is no amount of marijuana that a person can legally possess in the state of Arizona unless that person holds a valid medical marijuana card. Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance, putting it in the same category as heroin. The possession of any amount of marijuana can result in being charged with a felony.If you have under 2 pounds, you will likely be charged with a Class 6 felony. If convicted, you could face up to two years of incarceration. If the charges are lowered to a Class 1 misdemeanor, you could still face up to six months in prison or probation. Fines can range from $750 to a maximum of $150,000.
Federal Prosecution for Marijuana Use
Even though President Donald Trump publicly expressed his support of medical marijuana, the purchase, possession or sale of marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
Under the presidency of Barack Obama, then-U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole drafted a memorandum now referred to as the Cole Memorandum. While not legalizing medical marijuana, the Cole Memorandum deprioritized enforcing federal laws relating to marijuana in states that had legalized medical dispensing. What this meant is that it was still considered illegal on the federal level, but that the federal government generally refrained from pressing charges.
Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum on January 4, 2018, leaving prosecutorial decisions up to individual federal prosecutors.
- Possibility of Marijuana Conviction Forgiveness
In general, Arizona doesn’t allow for the expungement of a criminal record, as is the case in some other states. It does, however, have a provision for requesting that a conviction be set aside. A criminal conviction that gets set aside remains on the person’s record and can be used as evidence in future prosecution efforts.At this time, there is no way to know for certain whether there will be a provision for relief for those convicted of a marijuana-related offense if recreational use is approved on the November 2018 ballot.
Some people are under the assumption that the current medical marijuana provision will protect them from prosecution if they get a medical marijuana card after they have been arrested. This is not the case. To try to prevent prosecution for possessing marijuana, one must have been approved for a medical card before the time of arrest. It is important to proactively obtain the right to receive marijuana medication if it’s needed
A Kind Approach
Utilizing someone else’s card or otherwise obtaining marijuana through illegal means puts you at risk of arrest and prosecution. If you are suffering with an ailment that medical marijuana can treat, the best solution is to try to become a medical marijuana patient.
By obtaining a registry identification card through the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program, you can legally obtain the medication you deserve to curb your symptoms gently and effectively without having to turn to addictive narcotics.
If you are ready to try a holistic approach to treating your illness or pain, Kind Meds can help. We provide high-quality products in various delivery forms. Our goal is to change people’s lives through education and quality cannabis medication. Visit our Get My Card page to find out how to start feeling better in four simple steps.