The History of Cannabis Legalization in Arizona

Each state has a different relationship to cannabis and its use for medicinal and recreational purposes. In the state of Arizona, you can only buy weed if you’re a registered patient, and you have a doctor’s prescription. You also need a medical license, and if you’re found in possession of pot, you can be charged with a felony. Recreational use is still illegal in some states. What is legal, what is not, and more about the roller coaster that cannabis has been on with the law in Arizona can be found in the lines below!


A Timeline of Events

In order to follow how Arizona marijuana laws changed over time, we present to you this timeline of events that were key in the history of the drug in the state.

  • Proposition 200

 Until 1996, the medicinal use of cannabis with a doctor’s prescription was illegal. That, however, changed the same year, and patients in Arizona could use marijuana after a physician’s recommendation. Even though with this act, Arizona became one of the front runners in the medical marijuana laws along with California, the law was repealed.

  • Proposition 300

 Two years later, the voters decided to reaffirm the legalization of medicinal cannabis use and passed Proposition 300. The law was reaffirmed, and marijuana was once again free to use for medical purposes. The language used in the bill was limiting and it made the law ineffective at promoting medicinal marijuana.

  • 2002: The saga continues

Another form of drug reform was attempted in 2002 but failed to pass. It was Proposition 203. It aimed at making the prescribed medicinal marijuana legal for use and sale by licensed patients, doctors, and dispensaries. However, with only 42.7% of the people’s positive vote, the law did not pass.

  • 2010: Revisiting Proposition 203

Finally, in 2010, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act was finally passed, and the use of medicinal marijuana became legal. It was a close call, but with more than half of the voters’ approval, licensed patients were no longer to be persecuted for the use and purchase of cannabis.

  • 2012: Medical cannabis on college campuses

In 2012, Arizona legislators once again achieved a restriction to the access of medical marijuana on college campuses. University officials and cannabis prohibitionists pushed the campus ban, but the opposition argued that it was going to amend the legalization bill that the majority of voters passed two years earlier.

  • 2018: No longer a crime on college campuses

Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the possession of medical marijuana on college campuses within the state will be legalized. Decriminalizing its possession, however, does not allow students to use it on campus or in the common areas. But, the prosecution of valid cardholders was lifted, and it is no longer seen as a crime by the court.


What about recreational use?

When it comes to Arizona marijuana laws regarding the use of cannabis for recreational purposes, legalization has still not been achieved. In 2016, the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative tried changing that with Proposition 205, but it was defeated by just two percent of the voters. Even though the state has come a long way in its relationship, the handling of cannabis, and its use, a potential recreational marijuana reform would still face strong opposition in the face of some members of the local communities.


In conclusion

Even though there were more than 193,000 medical-marijuana cards issued in March 2019 and that many people can legally possess and purchase the light drug from state-licensed dispensaries, Arizonians have a long way to go until they get its recreational use approved by the court. Since this was rejected in 2016, the state failed to become the 12th state where recreational marijuana is legal; it’s evident that voters still keep their conservative views on the matter.

Yet, it will be reconsidered in 2020, when another ballot is expected to be held. The result of this poll will indicate to what extent the acceptance of this idea has grown and whether the moment of legalization is near. Until this becomes a fact, the possession of cannabis by an unlicensed person is a felony punishable with months of incarceration time and thousands of dollars in fines. Make sure that you know your rights very well if you’re coming to Arizona for a visit from another state with different legislation.

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