Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice. If you have questions about the law or need legal advice, please contact an attorney. The information in this article is accurate as of 2023, but may not remain accurate as marijuana laws are constantly evolving.
In 2020, Arizona voters passed a referendum that legalized marijuana for recreational use. The Smart and Safe Arizona Act (SSAA)—which is also known to locals as Proposition 207 or “Prop 207”—made it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, cultivate, and use marijuana. The law also provides for the licensing of dispensaries that can legally sell marijuana to consumers.
The SSAA is not a free-for-all when it comes to marijuana possession and use. A list of strict rules governs the recreational use of marijuana (and marijuana concentrate, i.e., THC oil) in Arizona. It’s critical that you know the rules and follow each one of them.
Arizona marijuana laws are governed by a complex combination of statutes, including A.R.S. § 36-2853 (SSAA) and A.R.S. § 13-3405 (criminal statute pertaining to marijuana). Those laws overlap, so it is important to understand how that overlap affects your actual use of marijuana.
Legal Age to use Marijuana in Arizona:
You must be at least 21 years old to consume marijuana legally in Arizona. Just like the laws pertaining to alcohol, there is absolutely no exception for the consumption of marijuana by anyone under 21 years of age. If you’re under 21, you simply are prohibited from possessing or consuming marijuana in Arizona.
It’s a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana, in particular its psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Do not drive while impaired, even to the “slightest degree” (A.R.S. § 28-1381) by any drug or alcohol. That includes THC. In my opinion, regardless of recreational marijuana laws, impaired driving will always be a crime in Arizona.
Where to Consume:
Don’t consume marijuana in a public place or open space! First, under the “plain view” doctrine, the police can see you and arrest you if you’re consuming in public. Second, the SSAA does not protect you if you’re caught smoking or consuming THC in public. For example, don’t consume on a public bus, don’t smoke at a Cardinals game, don’t eat edibles at a Suns game. It’s still illegal to smoke or consume THC in public.
MARIJUANA QUANTITIES AND CONCENTRATION:
It’s very important to understand the limits of recreational marijuana laws. As noted above, it’s not a free-for-all. You can still be convicted of a crime for marijuana possession, sale, transportation, production, and cultivation if you exceed the permissible quantities. Therefore, we recommend that you study the quantity limits very carefully before
You can purchase, possess, consume, and transport 1 ounce or less of marijuana. However, only 5 grams can be marijuana concentrate.
Arizona law defines marijuana concentrate as the resin extracted from any part of a cannabis plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of that resin or THC. See A.R.S. § 36-2850(20) (2023).
But concentrate does not include industrial hemp or the weight of any other ingredient combined with cannabis to prepare topical or oral administrations, food, drink or other products!
You can also cultivate and possess up to 6 marijuana plants for personal use at your residence. But even if two or more people over 21 live in the same residence, the maximum amount of plants you can produce at a single residence is limited to 12 plants.
If you do cultivate marijuana plants, you must do so in a closet, room, greenhouse, or other enclosed area with a lock or security device that prevents access by minors.
Attorney’s Note: Don’t ever grow marijuana by a window visible to the public. Under Arizona’s “plain view” doctrine, police can gain access to your residence and perform a search!
You can transfer, or give, marijuana to your friend, but it must be 1 ounce or less, and never more than 5 grams of marijuana concentrate. Your friend must be over 21 years old! And you cannot advertise marijuana for sale, not even less than 1 ounce. So, stay off Craigslist when transferring marijuana.
Before 2020, possession of marijuana paraphernalia used to be a felony crime in Arizona! However, the SSAA changed all of that. For anyone over 21 years old, it is now legal to possess, purchase, sell, and transport drug paraphernalia related to marijuana. This includes vape pens, pipes, and scales.
CRIMINAL VIOLATIONS OF ARIZONA MARIJUANA LAWS:
We hope you never need this information, but if you run afoul of the SSAA, you will need to know this information. We also encourage you to review it before you consume or possess marijuana in Arizona.
Serious Felony Crimes
Violating the quantity limits is a serious felony crime. Transporting, selling, or possessing for sale any marijuana or marijuana concentrate can land you in Arizona Department of Corrections, i.e., state prison, for 3 to 12 years, with a felony conviction that can ruin your future goals.
Arizona’s “war on drugs” laws are no joke, and the SSAA will not help you if you run afoul of the felony criminal statutes involving marijuana. Don’t give the police or prosecutors a chance to come after you. Stay within the boundaries of the SSAA.
Low level possession that exceeds the SSAA quantity limits, but that does not involve a significant quantity or any evidence of selling, may result in a misdemeanor conviction. However, any violation of the SSAA can be filed as a felony, and you are never guaranteed a reduction to a misdemeanor.
Driving under the influence of THC to the slightest degree is a misdemeanor crime, which requires a minimum of 1 day in jail, fines and fees that will exceed $1,500, license suspension and other MVD penalties.
For cases involving possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana, but less than 2.5 ounces, it’s just a petty offense.
SMART AND SAFE ARIZONA ACT
It’s called the “smart” and “safe” marijuana act for a reason! You can be smart and safe when you use marijuana in Arizona. And if you follow the rules, you’ll stay out of jail.
At our law firm, we’re proud to defend people accused of drug offenses, including marijuana. The “war on drugs” in Arizona is filling the prison system with drug offenders. Don’t let that include you. Be smart. Be safe. Call us if you get charged with a crime.