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Arizona Cannabis Laws: What’s Legal?

Four containers of hemp/CBD skincare products lay on a pile of fallen red leaves.

Arizona Cannabis Laws: What’s Legal?

Four containers of hemp/CBD skincare products lay on a pile of fallen red leaves.

With more and more states legalizing cannabis products, from medical to recreational marijuana and associated products such as those made with hemp or hemp-produced CBD — totaling 10 states and the District of Columbia since 2012 — it has become increasingly attractive to use and consume such substances. However, the exact details of what the law allows you to use, and where, when, and in what form are still pretty hazy. For one thing, it’s important to differentiate between “decriminalization” and “legalization.” Moreover, we need to grasp the difference between THC-containing cannabis products and those without this psychoactive chemical, such as those containing CBD. Finally, the fact that every state’s laws and regulations regarding marijuana are quite unique — even among those which have legalized it — and fact that in the eyes of federal law, marijuana in any shape or form is considered completely illegal and categorized as a Schedule 1 drug (the same as meth or heroin) makes things even more complicated.

So, let’s get a few things straight. The states in which both medical and recreational marijuana are completely legal, are, as of this blog’s publishing date and in no particular order: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. Vox’s article from November of 2018 on the subject has a great map showing this. Vermont is noted as an outlier because, although marijuana has indeed been legalized for personal recreational use, it has not yet been legalized for commercial use, meaning that private businesses are still unable to sell marijuana within the state. As you may notice, Arizona is not included in this list, and thus, the recreational consumption of marijuana in our very own Grand Canyon State is still entirely illegal.

This image shows the outline of a map of the United States. In the middle of the silhouette of the country, is a list of the states that have legalized recreational marijuana: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

As for the legalization of medical marijuana, 32 states have done so, including Arizona. Generally speaking, this means that citizens in these states can, with a medical marijuana card provided by a doctor, both consume and potentially even grow up to a certain amount of the plant. In Arizona, cardholders can obtain up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks and grow up to 12 plants if they live more than 25 miles from a dispensary. It is also important, however, to keep in mind that although it is legal for cardholders to use medical marijuana, even cardholders must adhere to other laws regarding the use of marijuana. They are not, for example, permitted to drive under the influence of marijuana, carry it while on a university campus, in other school environments, or smoke it in a public space.

13 states have decriminalized (but not legalized) marijuana, reducing the legal consequences of consuming and possessing the drug (eliminating the possibility of prison time, for example), although trafficking and selling marijuana still remains criminally illegal in these states, and those found in possession of small amounts of marijuana can still be fined and given small amounts of jail time. A January 2019 article from Insider does a great job explaining the difference between decriminalization and complete legalization. What constitutes “small” still differs from from state to state, unfortunately, and what might be considered “small” in one state may have much more serious consequences in another. Arizona has not decriminalized marijuana, and is actually considered by some to have some of the harshest laws regarding the substance in the entire country, with the possession of any amount (outside of medical marijuana sales and consumption) being considered grounds for a felony.

And that thing we mentioned earlier about marijuana still being illegal on a federal level? That means that even if an individual purchased or was gifted marijuana in a state where it was legal to do so, they cannot transport said substance across state lines or out of the country.

Now, what about CBD (short for cannabidiol oil), that cool new acronym on the lips of young and hip people everywhere? You may have even noticing products containing the trendy CBD ingredient popping up everywhere, from dispensaries to smoke shops to outdoor outfitters and farmer’s markets, even right here in Flagstaff — which has many people wondering, what exactly is it, and is it legal? Well, we’re no doctors or scientists, but before we get into more of the legal stuff, it’s important to clarify exactly what CBD is, so let’s start there. CBD, or any other materials or ingredients made from hemp (which CBD oil is extracted from), is not the same as THC-containing recreational marijuana, another form of cannabis. Both hemp and marijuana come from cannabis, the same plant family, but unlike the THC-containing cannabis marijuana, products made with hemp and/or CBD will not have the same psychoactive effects that THC will. In other words, CBD will not get you “high” the same way traditional recreational marijuana would. Because the substance, and other forms of hemp, is non-intoxicating, it is completely legal in every state, including Arizona. It should be noted that CBD can also be extracted from marijuana, but it is unlikely that you will find this form on mainstream market. Marijuana-derived CBD products can, however, be obtained with a medical marijuana card in states in which it is legal to do so.

This graphic explains the differences between marijuana and hemp. The title reads: Types of Cannabis: Hemp vs. Marijuana. Under the marijuana side of the graphic, the following facts are listed: contains THC, creates a "high," is psychoactive and mind-altering, is illegal in most states. The hemp side reads: does not contain THC, does not create a "high," may contain other healing or calming properties, is legal in every state.

As for the other potential effects of consuming CBD, many claim that the oil has all sorts of benefits ranging from reducing anxiety to decreasing chronic pain to improving a user’s quality of sleep, but these claims have yet to be substantiated by science, and as of right now, can neither be denied nor supported. It is also important to know that because CBD is legal but unregulated, the quality of any given product could vary widely.

So what should you do if you are, in fact, caught possessing illegal recreational marijuana, or accused of using the substance illegally? We get it, it happens. As usual, we recommend employing your right to stay silent until a lawyer is present so that we can help you achieve the best legal result possible and avoid any unnecessary consequences. Don’t give up, Antol and Sherman is here to help.

Our team of dedicated trial attorneys at Antol & Sherman, PC, have more than 60 years of combined legal experience and a strong track record of providing successful legal counsel. We have been practicing criminal, family and divorce, drug and DUI, and accident law in Flagstaff, Arizona and surrounding northern Arizona cities including Camp Verde, Sedona, Williams, Holbrook, Winslow, Cottonwood, Mayer, Seligman, Kingman, Page, St. Johns and more for over 30 years. Antol & Sherman, PC and their staff of lawyers would love to sit down and discuss your legal needs. Please call us at 928-241-6339, stop in today at Antol & Sherman, PC, 150 N Verde St Suite 102, Flagstaff, AZ 86001 or visit us at flagazlaw.com.