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As evidenced by its nickname, the Grand Canyon State, Arizona is known for its spectacular canyon formed by the Colorado River. Millions flock to witness its majesty annually.

Another state tourist attraction involves playing host to half of Major League Baseball's Spring Training teams, otherwise known as the Cactus League.

Because vacations are a time to unwind, some tourists may ponder the possibility of lighting up to make their visit to the Grand Canyon National Park or one of the stadiums that much more memorable.

But the arid climate in Arizona extends to its marijuana laws, which may seem like a desert wasteland compared with the relaxed laws of neighboring California or Nevada, both adult-use states. Medical marijuana legalization in Arizona has been something of an uphill battle. Though it is now legal, there are still limitations. So before you toke up, buy a baseball glove, and head out to catch some foul balls, make sure you know what you can and can't do when it comes to cannabis in Arizona.

Where and How to Buy

Qualifying patients with a registry identification card can buy medical marijuana from a dispensary registered with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). Dispensaries must operate on a not-for-profit basis, but can receive payments to cover expenses. Patients can't possess more than 2 1/2 ounces, or 70.9 grams, of cannabis during any 14-day period.

To qualify, the patient must have a diagnosis of one of the below:

  • Agitation of Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease
  • Cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following conditions:
    • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
    • Seizures
    • Severe and chronic pain
    • Severe nausea
    • Severe and persistent muscle spasms

In addition to purchasing at an Arizona medical marijuana dispensary, patients may use delivery services, which are available throughout the state. Patients also can get medical marijuana from a designated caregiver, another qualifying patient, or through home cultivation. Home cultivation is allowed only if a dispensary is not operating within 25 miles of the patient's home.

Photo by Gina Coleman/WM News

How to Consume

Qualifying patients can't use medical cannabis at a dispensary. Patients may consume cannabis in the form of flower, edibles, topicals, salves, and capsules in a private place. Marijuana can be smoked, but never in public places. Cannabis-infused edibles, however, can be consumed publicly.


Arizona has strict medical marijuana licensing procedures, but they do allow out-of-state visitors to consume--within strict limits. A visiting patient must have a registry identification card or its equivalent, issued by the qualifying patient's home state, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Visiting patients cannot, however, buy marijuana from an Arizona dispensary. State statutes require dispensaries to access the state's verification system before dispensing marijuana. That means you'll have to use whatever you bought in your home state in Arizona, but you won't be able to replenish your supply.

What Isn't Allowed

  • Adult-use cannabis remains illegal in Arizona.
  • Possession or use on a school bus, on the grounds of a preschool, or a kindergarten through 12th-grade campus is prohibited.
  • Smoking marijuana on public transportation vehicles or in public places is prohibited.
  • Cannabis consumption in a parked car in any public space or in public view is prohibited.

First-Time Use

New medical marijuana patients should ask their physician about exactly what they can expect from consuming cannabis. The University of Arizona in Tucson also offers a handy flier on the possible side effects of marijuana use as well as potential side effects of drug interactions. Always remember to start low and go slow.

Cannabis Legalization in Arizona

Medical marijuana was approved by Arizona voters in 1996 through an initiative on drug policy reform with a provision allowing for seriously and terminally ill patients to possess it with a doctor's prescription. However, the provision was overturned. Another effort to legalize medical marijuana occurred in 2002 with Proposition 203, but failed. In 2010, through a ballot initiative, voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Question, a revised Proposition 203, allowing qualifying patients and caregivers to participate in the state's medical marijuana program. The first medical marijuana sales took place in December 2012.