When the federal government first passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the predecessor of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, all 50 states had criminalized cannabis to various extents. In Arizona, it took until the mid-1990s for state legislators to listen to decadeslong calls for cannabis reform.
Medical marijuana was first approved by Arizona voters in 1996, through an initiative designed to reform drug policy that contained a provision allowing for seriously/terminally ill patients to possess medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription. This provision was overturned due to the legal language of the word “prescribe” conflicting with federal law forbidding prescriptions.
Arizona tried once again to legalize medical cannabis in 2002, with Proposition 203, but only earned 42.7% of the vote. A viable solution was not approved until nearly ten years later. Voters in 2010 passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Question, a much-revised Proposition 203, by the slimmest of margins — 50.13% of the vote. Under Proposition 203, only qualifying patients and caregivers can participate in Arizona’s medical marijuana program.
After Proposition 203 passed, the first medical marijuana sales didn’t take place until December 2012. Qualifying patients and caregivers are now allowed to purchase, possess, and consume medical cannabis obtained through a nonprofit state-licensed dispensary.
Adult-use cannabis is prohibited in Arizona.
Proposition 203 named the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) as the agency responsible for developing and implementing rules and regulations for the Arizona medical cannabis program. The initiative set out certain parameters used by the ADHS for qualifying patients and caregivers to receive access to medical marijuana as well as operating regulations for licensed cannabis dispensaries.
Where is it Safe to Purchase?
Only patients and caregivers in the ADHS registry with identification cards can purchase medical marijuana from a nonprofit state-licensed dispensary. If patients are unable to make the purchase themselves, they may also designate a caregiver to purchase and deliver the medical marijuana on their behalf. There are also many delivery services available throughout the state.
Patients can purchase an amount of cannabis that would result in their possessing up to two-and-one-half ounces (2.5 oz), or 70.87 grams, in a 14-day period. Registered patients may consume medical cannabis as flower, edibles, topicals, salves, and capsules, as well as purchase consumption accessories. Licensed dispensaries utilize a state-operated cannabis tracking system to monitor the purchasing activity of qualified patients and designated caregivers.
Consumers will be subject to a 6.6% state tax, in addition to an optional tax of 2-3% levied by cities. While there are no cost-offset medical marijuana programs, many nonprofit dispensaries offer low-income discounts for patients in financial need.
Dispensaries are allowed one (1) retail location for every ten pharmacies registered in Arizona. As of November 2018, the ADHS has distributed its limit of dispensary licenses. Patients located far from their closest dispensary may opt to use a medical cannabis delivery service. These services will, typically for a minimum order amount or fee, deliver medical cannabis directly to a registered patient’s or designated caregiver’s residence.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
Cannabis consumption must take place in a private space.
Registered qualifying patients can consume medical cannabis as flower, edibles, topicals, salves, or capsules. As of June 2018, cannabis products made from the resin of the cannabis flower (extracts) are illegal under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
The smoking of cannabis in any public place is prohibited. The only form of public consumption allowed for patients is cannabis-infused edibles. Consumption of cannabis in a parked car in any public space or in the view of the public is also prohibited.
Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and consumption in a vehicle is not allowed, neither while driving nor while riding as a passenger.
Any nursing care institution may adopt reasonable rules to regulate the use of medical cannabis by their residents. However, they may not unreasonably limit a registered qualifying patient’s medical cannabis use unless doing so would cause the facility to lose monetary or licensing-related benefits under federal regulations.
Patients and caregivers whose patients live more than 25 miles, or 40.23 kilometers, from a dispensary qualify for home cultivation. Once approved by the ADHS for home cultivation, patients and caregivers may possess up to 12 plants per registered patient. These plants must be kept in an enclosed, locked container out of public view.
Patients or caregivers may offer medical cannabis to another registered patient or designated caregiver as long as nothing of value is exchanged and possession limits are not exceeded.
Possession of cannabis without a medical marijuana ID card could result in a minimum $750 fine and possible jail time.
to Be to Consume?
Registered patients and designated caregivers may cultivate cannabis plants for medical use if there is no nonprofit cannabis dispensary within 25 miles of their home address.
A licensed nonprofit dispensary may acquire usable cannabis or cannabis plants from a qualifying patient or caregiver, so long as the individual receives no compensation for the cannabis.
No landlord may refuse to lease to or otherwise penalize a person solely for their status as a medical cannabis cardholder.
Medical Marijuana Registry
Adults and patients younger than 18 must meet certain requirements for ADHS approval. For minors, the patient’s parent or legal guardian must be designated as their caregiver.
Adults are not required to designate a caregiver, but can choose to designate one as needed. A registered patient may designate a caregiver to assist with medical marijuana purchases and deliveries, as well as administration and cultivation of medical marijuana. Arizona law specifies that only a qualifying patient can apply for a designated caregiver.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Hepatitis C
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or the treatment of such a condition that includes:
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe and chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
The public may petition to the ADHS to add debilitating medical conditions to this list, which the ADHS will decide whether to approve.
Qualifying patients must be 18 or older to apply for a registry identification card. Minors seeking to apply for a medical cannabis registry identification card must meet the following requirements:
- The qualifying patient’s physician has explained both the risks and benefits of medical cannabis use to the patient’s parent or legal guardian.
- The patient’s parent or legal guardian must submit a written certification from two physicians.
- The patient’s parent or legal guardian must agree to serve as the patient’s designated caregiver and control the acquisition, dosage, and use of medical cannabis.
Private insurers and government medical assistance programs are not required to provide coverage for medical cannabis use.
- Receive a written certification from an Arizona state-licensed physician for a qualifying debilitating condition. The written certification has to be on a form provided by the ADHS within 90 days before submitting an application for a registry identification card.
- Complete the online patient registry application.
- Provide a valid Arizona driver’s license or state identification card to establish residency.
- Designate a caregiver, if applicable.
- Request authorization for home cultivation, if applicable.
- Pay a $150 fee for medical marijuana registry identification card. The cards expire one year after the date of issue and must be renewed for $150 annually. Patients must apply for renewals at least 30 days before the cards expire.
The department will approve or deny an application or renewal within 10 days of receiving a completed application or renewal. A registry identification card is issued within five (5) days following approval. All application or renewal records are confidential.
Arizona law specifies that only a qualifying patient can apply for a designated caregiver. Registered caregivers must be ages 21 or older, a resident of Arizona, and have met all eligibility requirements prior to ADHS approval. A designated caregiver may provide care for up to 5 patients and hold a registry identification card for each of his or her patients.
Caregivers are eligible for reimbursement for costs incurred in the service of assisting patients with access and use of medical marijuana.
- Caregivers must be at least 21 years old.
- Caregivers must provide proof of residency.
- Caregivers must complete a mandatory criminal background check conducted by the ADHS.
- A designated caregiver may provide care for up to five (5) patients.
- Once approved, designated caregivers must print, sign, and date the Medical Marijuana Caregiver Attestation form and submit a copy of the form online before receiving a registry identification card
- A $150 identification card fee must also be paid to ADHS. The registry ID card will expire one year after the date it was issued. The qualifying patient must apply for renewal at least 30 days before the expiration date.
The department will approve or deny an application/renewal within ten (10) days of receiving a completed application or renewal. A registry identification card is issued within five (5) days following approval. All application or renewal records are confidential.
Patients seeking to apply for their ADHS medical cannabis registry ID card must obtain a signed and dated written certification from a licensed physician. Physicians, osteopathic doctors, naturopathic doctors, and homeopathic physicians licensed to practice in Arizona may provide qualifying patients with written certifications.
This document must specify the patient’s qualifying debilitating condition and confirm that the physician, after a full medical assessment in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship, believes that the patient may benefit from medical cannabis use.
A physician shall not be subject to arrest or disciplinary proceedings based solely on providing written certifications that, in the physician’s professional opinion, will allow patients to receive therapeutic or palliative benefits from medical cannabis.
The ADHS recognizes out-of-state recommendations, offering the same legal protections for visiting patients as those offered to state residents. Out-of-state patients may not purchase from Arizona state-licensed dispensaries, but are allowed to possess up to two and one-half ounces (2.5 oz), or 70.87 grams, of usable cannabis.
There is currently no lab testing required by the state.
Licensing for Growers, Manufacturers, Processors, Retailers etc.
Registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries are the only entities permitted to cultivate, manufacture, acquire, possess, deliver, transfer, and dispense medical cannabis to registered qualifying patients or designated caregivers.
Arizona medical cannabis dispensaries must operate as nonprofit entities and keep bookkeeping records to maintain their nonprofit character. A registered nonprofit dispensary, however, need not be recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS.
All nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries must register with the ADHS. Entities must submit a complete application, application fee of $5000, and all operating materials to be considered for licensure. No later than 90 days after receipt shall the ADHS provide the nonprofit dispensary with a registration certificate and identification number. Each license must be renewed annually with a renewal fee of $1000.
All dispensary agents must receive a registry identification card from the ADHS before volunteering at a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary. Employees must be at least 21 years old, pay a $150 application fee, and meet all eligibility requirements to receive an ADHS registry identification card.
The ADHS currently limits the number of nonprofit dispensary licenses to one (1) license for every (10) Arizona pharmacies. Cities, towns, and counties may enact reasonable zoning regulations to limit the land used for nonprofit cannabis dispensaries.
This page was last updated November 5, 21018.