Arizona's 2019 legislative session is underway
Last update: February 10, 2019
Arizona’s lawmakers convened in January to begin the 2019 legislative session, which is expected to adjourn in April. In the meantime, the Republican-controlled House and Senate will consider several marijuana policy related bills.
HB 2537 would make a number of significant changes to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act approved by voters in 2010, including reducing the number of plants patients are allowed to cultivate, extending the expiration date for medical marijuana registration cards, and mandating third-party laboratory testing for medical marijuana products. Read a more detailed summary of the legislation here.
SB 1138 would lower the costs of patient registration cards and renewal fees.
HB 2555 would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace penalties for an ounce or less with a $100 civil fine.
SB 1003 would establish a framework and licensing structure for hemp farming.
SB 1022 would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use.
In March, the Arizona Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether edible products, concentrates, and other processed forms of medical marijuana are permissible under the current law. Despite the clear intent of the voter-approved law, anti-marijuana prosecutors have argued that only plant forms of medical marijuana are lawful.
Stay tuned for more updates!
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.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Arizona, be sure to subscribe to MPP's alerts, if you haven't done so already.