Arizona’s adult-use cannabis market opens up and expungement policies take effect
Last update: July 12, 2021
Last year Arizonans approved Prop 207, a voter initiative to legalize cannabis for adults, by a 60 to 40 percent margin. After the law officially took effect, regulators moved quickly to get the legal cannabis market up and running, and sales began in late January of this year.
Under Prop 207, adults 21 and older are permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants in their residence. Marijuana sales are subject to the normal sales tax rate of 5.6% in addition to a 16% excise tax. Beginning in July, people previously convicted of low-level cannabis offenses are permitted to file petitions to have those criminal records cleared and expunged. Learn more about the expungement process in your county and view the petition forms on the website for Arizona’s court system. You can also read a comprehensive summary of the new legalization law here.
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.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation in 2019 that requires dispensaries to have all medical marijuana tested by third-party laboratories for potency and contaminants. The law also made patient registry cards valid for two years instead of one, saving each of the state’s roughly 200,000 patients hundreds of dollars over the next decade.
Finally, in May 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that concentrates, edibles, and other infused products are legal under the state’s medical marijuana law, ending a controversy based on an inaccurate reading of the 2010 voter-backed law.
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