There are many myths about use and possession of marijuana and medical marijuana in Arizona, especially since the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act passed in 2010. Here’s what you need to know about what is and isn’t allowed, and the legal consequences.
Can I be fired for using or possessing medical marijuana in Arizona legally?
A patient can be fired if he or she is in possession or under the influence of marijuana at the workplace.
It is illegal for an employer to take adverse action against an employee because of cardholder status or a positive test for the presence of marijuana, unless the employer would lose federal funding or licensing for not taking action. It does happen but often never makes it to court, according to marijuana lawyer Thomas Dean.
“It is usually fairly clear when an employer takes adverse action because it is in response to a positive test or, in the case of refusals-to-hire, often the person is told that they are hired and all that remains is to get the results of the drug test back. Then, as soon as the results are in, the employer reverses its decision,” Dean said.
“As a practical matter, however, these lawsuits can take time and be costly. Many attorneys are hesitant to take on a case that will be expensive to litigate if the damages are not substantial. That’s why most people end up not filing suit. They may, however, choose to seek unemployment insurance benefits.”
Can I get a DUI after using medical marijuana?
Yes. The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that the state’s medical-marijuana law doesn’t give drivers immunity from prosecution if they test positive for marijuana or its chemical compound.
Can I use or possess medical marijuana on a college campus?
No. Arizona is the only state in the U.S. where medical marijuana is legal while being illegal on college campuses, due to a 2012 revision of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act known as the “campus-ban statute.”
Cardholders also can’t have it on a school bus, on the grounds of a preschool, primary school or high school, or in a correctional facility, and can’t smoke it on public transportation or in a public place.
What happens if I get caught breaking the law?
If you are caught in Maricopa County with marijuana and you don’t have a card (or you have a card but are using or possessing medical marijuana in a prohibited place, such as a college campus), you will likely be charged with a felony.
Once charged, prosecutors usually offer the chance to do a six-month treatment and drug-testing program known as TASC instead of facing trial. Upon completion, the offender will either “have the case dropped with no charges filed or have the charges dismissed with prejudice,” according to the TASC website.
If I have a medical-marijuana card, will my name be public?
No. According to state law, the information that ADHS receives for the registry is confidential. It cannot be disclosed under the Arizona Open Records Law.
“Employers and law enforcement cannot obtain information without the patient’s registration number, which they can only get from the patient’s card,” Dean said. Also, a police officer may get a search warrant for departmental records if he or she can show probable cause that the patient is committing a marijuana crime.
“Other than that, the privacy is supposed to be protected,” he said. “Although you do hear concerns from consumers that they think that there are leaks, I have not been able to verify that this has actually occurred.”
Who is using medical marijuana in Arizona?
There were more than 63,000 active cardholders in Arizona in 2014. Recent reports show that 18- to 30-year-old men are the largest demographic participating in the program, making up 17.8 percent of cardholders. The average age of a female qualifying patient is 47 years, while that of a male is 44.
What medical conditions qualify a patient for medical marijuana in Arizona?
“Severe and chronic pain,” which includes migraine headaches and back pain, is patients’ most-cited debilitating condition and affects about 71 percent of cardholders. An additional 17.3 percent of patients cited severe and chronic pain in combination with another condition.
The next-most cited condition is cancer, which 2.7 percent of patients cited. Click here to see a full list of qualifying conditions.
Will marijuana ever be legalized in Arizona (like it is in Colorado)?
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is gathering signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot. If passed, it would establish a network of licensed cannabis shops where sales of the drug would be taxed.
Under the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, adults 21 and older could possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes without obtaining licenses, as long as the plants are in a secure area. The initiative also would create a distribution system similar to Colorado’s, where licensed businesses produce and sell marijuana and pay a 15-percent tax on retail sales to be allocated for public health and education, including full-day kindergarten.
Can I use medical marijuana if I’m on probation?
Yes. The Arizona Supreme Court issued two rulings in April barring courts and prosecutors from denying medical marijuana in Arizona use as a term of probation if the convicted felon has a valid medical-marijuana card.