Medical program survives legislative session unscathed


Last update: May 18, 2018


On May 4, 2018, the Arizona Legislature adjourned for the year. This year, lawmakers had 21 separate marijuana-related bills to consider – most of them were attempts to narrow the existing medical program. Thankfully, those efforts all failed. Unfortunately, efforts to improve marijuana policy also failed this year, including a bill by Rep. Mark Cardenas, HB 2014, which would have reduced the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to $100.

In November, Arizona voters will have a chance to elect lawmakers who support marijuana policy reform. The entire Arizona Senate and House are up for election, as well as the governor and other executive offices. In the coming months, voters will have numerous opportunities to ask the candidates about their positions on marijuana policy reforms.

To find out where a candidate in your district or state stands on medical marijuana, decriminalization (imposing a civil fine — not possible jail time — for simple possession), and legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults:

  • Visit the candidate’s website
  • Attend town halls and other events where the candidate will be answering questions
  • Contact the candidate’s office
  • Submit questions for a scheduled debate

Please remember to be polite and respectful. Like the public at large, politicians’ opinions are rapidly evolving on marijuana policy. Once you find out where the candidates stand, share the information with your friends and family who support marijuana reform in Arizona. Primaries will take place on August 28, and the general election is scheduled for November 6.

Find your polling place here.

Medical marijuana in Arizona


On November 2, 2010, Arizona voters enacted a medical marijuana initiative — Proposition 203 — with 50.13% of the vote. Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) finalized dispensary and registry identification card regulations on March 28, 2011. On April 14, 2011, it began accepting applications for registry cards that provide patients and their caregivers with protection from arrest. DHS was preparing to accept dispensary applications starting in June and to register one dispensary for every 10 pharmacies in the state, totaling 125. However, on May 27, 2011, Gov. Jan Brewer led a federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment on whether Arizona’s new medical marijuana program conflicted with federal law. Her lawsuit was rejected in 2012.

To qualify under Arizona’s program, patients must have one of the listed debilitating medical conditions: cancer; HIV/AIDS; hepatitis C; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; agitation of Alzheimer’s disease; PTSD; or a medical condition that produces wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms.

Registered patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and may designate one caregiver to possess it on their behalf. Arizona’s law also provides that any patient living 25 miles or more away from a dispensary can cultivate marijuana. Those allowed to cultivate can grow up to 12 plants. Arizona honors visiting patients’ out-of-state registry identification cards for up to 30 days, but they are not valid for obtaining marijuana.

The law also includes extensive civil discrimination protections for medical marijuana patients in the areas of employment, housing, education, organ transplants, and child custody, visitation, and parental rights.

The Arizona Legislature has rolled back some of Prop. 203’s protections, like possibly allowing an employer to fire a medical marijuana patient based on a report alleging workplace impairment from a colleague who is "believed to be reliable." The legislature also passed H.B. 2585, which contradicts Prop. 203 by adding medical marijuana patient data to the prescription drug-monitoring program. In 2015, the legislature undermined patient protections again with the passage of H.B. 2346, which specifies that nothing requires a provider of workers’ compensation benefits to reimburse a person for costs associated with the medical use of marijuana.

In September 2017, the Arizona Department of Child Services issued a new regulation saying that if an individual is a medical marijuana patient, then he or she would not be eligible to become a foster parent.

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