A Brief History of Cannabis in Phoenix

Arizona is known as one of the most conservative law and order states, though it has a light history with cannabis that dates back to 1996. At this time the state passed legislation revolting against the Drug War, Proposition 200, also known as the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act, allowing doctors to prescribe Schedule I drugs, such as marijuana to patients. Governor John Fife Symington signed the legislation with hesitation, “Proposition 200 is a thinly veiled attempt to legalize drugs at the expense of public safety. I decided not to exercise the governor’s veto authority because there are other avenues available through the Legislature and the courts to address the threats it poses.”

Symington felt he had no other choice, but proponents of the new law believed Arizona’s drug laws were too harsh to begin with because the state focused on incarcerating drug users, which wasn’t working.

Proposition 200 shifted the state’s focus to treatment and prevention, though the law established a new system of dealing with drug convictions. The Senate then passed a bill delaying the medical marijuana initiative, so the state didn’t officially legalize until 2010, when Arizona voters enacted a medical marijuana initiative.

While it seems every year the United States adds at least one more state to the list of legalized marijuana states, it’s important to remember that 21 years ago we had only one state with legal medical marijuana only. So this is a good time to reflect on the history of marijuana legalization in America.

We have highlighted a timeline of major milestones in marijuana legalization, and we thought it would be a good idea to share it as well. Take a look at each state and year:

1996 – California passes Proposition 215 legalizing medical marijuana in the state. Arizona also passes an initiative legalizing medical marijuana, but it’s later ruled invalid for referring to “marijuana prescriptions” which are illegal under federal law.

1998 – Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Washington D.C. all pass various medical marijuana laws, although Congress would prevent Washington D.C. from implementing theirs.

1999 – Maine legalizes medical marijuana through a ballot initiative.

2000 – Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada all legalize medical marijuana.

2003 – California passes a law preventing doctors from receiving punishments for recommending marijuana to patients.

2004 – Montana and Vermont legalize medical marijuana.

2007 – New Mexico and Rhode Island legalize medical marijuana, while Vermont and Oregon expand their own programs.

2008 – Michigan legalizes medical marijuana.

2009 – New Jersey legalizes medical marijuana. Congress reverses a previous decision and allows Washington D.C. to legalize medical marijuana. The Obama administration passes a new policy that asks prosecutors to refrain from going after people for using marijuana.

2010 – Arizona legalizes medical marijuana, and Washington D.C. does so once again.

2011 – Delaware legalizes medical marijuana.

2012 – Colorado and Washington voters approve ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana. Massachusetts legalizes medical marijuana.

2013 – Illinois and New Hampshire legalize medical marijuana. The Obama administration introduces the Cole Memo establishing federal protections for states with legalized marijuana.

2014 – Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C. all legalize recreational marijuana. Minnesota and New York legalize medical marijuana.

2016 – California, Nevada and Massachusetts legalize recreational marijuana. Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio all legalize medical marijuana.

2017 – West Virginia legalizes medical marijuana.

2018 – Jeff Sessions rescinds the Cole Memo protecting legalized marijuana states. Vermont legalizes recreational marijuana and Oklahoma legalizes medical marijuana.

Of course, 2018 isn’t over, and Michigan and/or North Dakota could legalize recreational marijuana while Utah and/or Missouri could do so medically. We can’t wait for the day when, “Congress legalizes marijuana” can be added to this timeline.

Medical Marijuana in Arizona

As of today, Arizona residents can obtain a medical marijuana permit through the ADHS. To apply for a permit, you must fill out an application or attestation form. This can be done for adults, or for potential users under the age of 18. If you have documents to prove a medical condition, you could qualify for medical marijuana in Arizona. Conditions recognized by the ADHS are cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s, and other debilitating or chronic conditions. Again, medical users can only obtain up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks or grow 12 plants if they are more than 25 miles away from the nearest dispensary. You can find out more about the arizona medical marijuana card here.

Possession/Consumption of Cannabis

It is still illegal to possess any amount of cannabis under Arizona’s marijuana laws, with the exception of medical card holders. If you are not a medical marijuana user, and you are caught with cannabis, you could face felony charges because it is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Under Arizona’s law, possession of marijuana is split into a few categories. The least serious offense is a Class 6 felony, when the amount found on your person is less than two pounds, intended for personal use. Class 6 felonies are punished by a minimum sentence of six months, and a maximum sentence of two years. It comes with a hefty fine at $1,000 minimum. Remember, this is the least serious offense. If you’re caught with between two and four pound of cannabis, the punishment is the same, with a maximum sentence extended to two and a half years.

If you are caught with a personal-use amount over four pounds, the minimum sentence extends to a full year, with a maximum sentence just under four years. Each of the punishments require a mandatory 24 hours of community service if the offender is granted probation.

Only medical marijuana cardholders can legally toke up in the state, though it must be done privately. Smoking in public places is always prohibited, though it is legal for medical marijuana users to consume edibles in public, so long as they are not operating a vehicle or behaving irresponsibly.

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