Arizona Supreme Court Evaluates Medical Marijuana Law

The medical marijuana issue in Arizona is now poised to go to the Supreme Court. The Court will be responsible for deciding whether or not federal drug laws should prevent medical marijuana from being legal. Maricopa County's attorney filed this request with the Arizona Supreme Court after a lower court ruled that medical marijuana was, in fact, constitutional. That ruling came last month when a Superior Court Judge with Maricopa County stated that federal drug laws in no way affect the legality of medical marijuana.

What turned into a debate about the legality of medical marijuana started as a land zoning issue. A medical marijuana dispensary was attempting to get approved by Maricopa County when the issue arose. Although medical marijuana was made legal by Proposition 203, many Arizona voters are still fighting to repeal the decision to legalize the program. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, those who get a doctor's recommendation may qualify for a medical marijuana card. This card would allow the patient to receive up to 2.5 grams of marijuana from a dispensary as often as every two weeks. So far, more than 30,000 Arizona residents already possess medical marijuana cards.

Those who possess medical marijuana cards should carry these cards on their person. Medical marijuana should only be used within the guidelines of the program. Those found in possession of cannabis without a qualifying patient card will likely face drug charges. The severity of these charges will differ depending on the amount of marijuana in possession. Some individuals are permitted to grow their own cannabis if they do not live within close proximity (within 25 miles) to a medical marijuana dispensary.

It is important to note that even if a person is carrying a medical marijuana card on them, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. This would be considered a DUI of drugs offense that could warrant a license suspension among other penalties such as fines or imprisonment. If you are a qualifying medical marijuana patient, you are permitted by law to both grow your own marijuana (if you live more than 25 miles from a dispensary) and purchase marijuana at a dispensary. Here, it is important to note that the possession limits are still in effect (2.5 ounces maximum or 12 cannabis plants).

Even those with drug convictions on their criminal record can qualify for the medical marijuana program in Arizona. According to Arizona Revised Statutes § 36-2801 there are some felony offenses that would require an individual to submit to a background check before being granted or denied a medical marijuana card. Since the medical marijuana laws in Arizona are relatively new, it is important to familiarize yourself with them in order to avoid committing a drug crime. If you have been convicted of a marijuana offense related to medical cannabis use, please don't hesitate to contact our firm today.

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