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Medical Marijuana in Arizona

Armando Nava

In 1996, Arizona Proposition 200 was approved as an initiative state statute by a 65.4 to 34.6 percent margin. Proposition 200 allows medical doctors to prescribe controlled substances, such as marijuana, to relieve the pain and suffering of seriously or terminally ill patients. A patient who is prescribed marijuana by a doctor would not be subject to criminal penalties for possessing or using marijuana. However, House Bill 2518 signed in 1997 repealed some of the most controversial provisions of Proposition 200. The new law only allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana when they are authorized and rescheduled by the federal government.

In 2010, proponents of Proposition 200 had another victory with Proposition 203 which was approved as an initiative state statute by a 50.1 to 49.9 percent margin. Proposition 203 allows Arizona residents with specific medical conditions to be treated with medical marijuana. These individuals are now protected from arrest and prosecution for using medical marijuana that was properly prescribed to them. Note that this proposition did not legalize driving under the influence of medical marijuana nor working while under the influence. With the passage of this amendment, Arizona became the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Since the approval of Proposition 203, Arizona legislature has attempted to limit access to medical marijuana. For instance, in March of 2011, the Arizona Department of Health Services released guidelines of who could grow, consume and distribute medical marijuana.

Who qualifies for medical marijuana?

A.R.S. 36-2801 defines “Debilitating medical condition” as meaning one or more of the following:

  • Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease or the treatment of these conditions.
  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
  • Any other medical condition or its treatment added by the department pursuant to section 36-2801.01.

A qualifying patient may apply for a registry identification car by submitting:

  • An application
  • The application fee
  • A written certification of diagnosis issued by a physician


Under A.R.S. 36-2802, the following conduct is not protected by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act:

  • Undertaking any task under the influence of marijuana that would constitute negligence or professional malpractice.
  • Possessing or engaging in the medical use of marijuana:
  • On a school bus.
  • On the grounds of any preschool or primary or secondary school.
  • In any correctional facility.
  • Smoking marijuana:
  • On any form of public transportation.
  • In any public place.
  • Operating, navigating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle

Having a medical marijuana card or being a caregiver for someone who uses medical marijuana does not mean that you are exempt from Arizona laws. To protect yourself from legal problems it is important you understand the medical marijuana regulations in Arizona.

If you or someone you know have recently run into medical marijuana legal problems, be sure to contact us at Nava Law in Phoenix, AZ, to discuss your specific legal issue today.

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