The short answer to this question is “no”. Arizonans may have voted heavily in favor of legalizing cannabis use (as well as a raft of other sensible marijuana measures) in November of last year.
But weed is not yet legal in AZ – even after Proposition 207 passed. There are still some legal fences to jump – and the state needs to work out a few things about how to implement the new laws.
So, don’t start lighting up in public just yet. In fact, you shouldn’t start lighting up in pubic at all…
Because Proposition 207 – even when its measures do come into full force – isn’t a blanket legalization for all marijuana-related activities.
If you’re wondering when marijuana will be legal in Arizona, there are a few things you should really know about what Prop 207 does and does not do:
The history of marijuana legalization in Arizona
It’s useful to bear in mind that Proposition 207 – otherwise known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act – is not the first time that Arizonans have gone to the polls to cast a ballot on the issue of cannabis legalization:
- 1996 marked the first time that the state legalized marijuana at the ballot. Only for the state legislature and governor to implement the bill in a way which effectively denied the people the desired outcome of their choice. This meant that marijuana remained effectively prohibited.
- 2010 was the date when the state’s medical marijuana program was successfully established.
- 2016 marked another trip to the ballots. This time, Arizonans rejected the proposed cannabis legalization measure in a 51% to 49% split.
Since that time, eleven other states have legalized the possession and use of recreational marijuana. Sixteen more states have decriminalized possession.
Several criticisms were also leveled at the 2016 proposition. Chiefly, that it did not do enough to emphasize the continuing illegality of driving under the influence of marijuana. Or to specify rules for where cannabis could be used and the types of marketing various dispensaries and manufacturers could do for their products.
Proposition 207 was designed to change all that.
What does Proposition 207 do for Arizona weed legalization?
Proposition 207 is designed to “legalize and regulate marijuana production, sale, possession and consumption” in the state of Arizona. It covers several areas of how this should be put into effect with a great deal of specificity. Including:
1) Individual possession and use
Under Proposition 207, individuals overs 21 years of age are allowed to possess and use up to one ounce of cannabis. This can include no more than 5 grams of cannabis concentrates.
An individual can also grow up to 6 marijuana plants at their primary residence. There is a limit of 12 plants per household though. So shared houses and large families cannot start growing entire greenhouses full of cannabis plants.
If you are planning on growing your own marijuana under the new rules, it is important to note that there are rules about how you can do so. For instance, you must grow your plants in a locked, enclosed area that cannot be viewed by anyone passing by.
2) Sharing and donating between individuals
Prop 207 states that under new Arizona marijuana law, an individual can transfer or donate one ounce or less – or up to six marijuana plants (the new legal limits for individual ownership) – to another person.
The only stipulations are that that person must also be over 21 years of age and that there must be no kind of remuneration involved.
Basically, you cannot start selling or trading marijuana as a private citizen even after weed is legal in Arizona, in order to buy quality THC carts filled with cannabis concentrates you still need your local dispensary.
3) Lighter penalties for minors
One of the areas of Prop 207 lays out new lighter penalties for individuals caught using cannabis unlawfully when they are under 21 years of age. The new laws will specify that a young person using cannabis will face only:
- First violation – civil penalty.
- Second violation – petty offense.
- Third violation – class one misdemeanor.
4) Tax the retail sale of marijuana – then use the money wisely
The sales tax on recreational marijuana and marijuana products will initially be set at 16%. This will then be combined with the money gained from licensing marijuana dispensaries, renewing those licenses, as well as from civil penalties, application fees, and several other ways the new system charges people to buy and sell marijuana.
All of these monies will then go into the “Smart and Safe Arizona Fund”. This fund will:
- Pay for initial set-up costs – including everything related to the administration and enforcement of the new measures.
- Be allocated to worthy institutions – targets for money from the Fund include community college districts and community colleges (33%), local police and fire departments (31%), the Arizona highway user revenue fund and other local and state transport programs (25%), and public health and criminal justice programs (10%).
- Be allocated within communities – including substance use prevention and treatment programs, workforce development programs, restorative justice programs and mentoring services for people in communities which have been “disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest and incarceration”. It will also be used to fund programs aimed at reducing drug-related arrests and the Arizona prison population as a whole.
As this tax is expected to raise anywhere from $88 million to $134 million every year after the new systems are in place, this will be a significant amount of money for these worthy causes.
5) Transfer money from the medical marijuana fund
The first stage of legalizing marijuana in Arizona was the medical marijuana act. Part of this act legislated the creation of a fund which has steadily grown over time. Today, it is a healthy nest egg which the state can use for any purpose it wishes.
Proposition 207 lays out plans to transfer $45 million from the medical marijuana fund to several worthy institutions and programs, including:
- The Arizona Teachers Academy
- Public health
- Traffic enforcement
- Marijuana legalization education
- Expunging certain criminal records
- Creating a social equity ownership program
6) Establish a petitions process to expunge offenses
Is pot legal in Arizona? Not quite yet. But now that it nearly is, what about those people who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses which are now legal?
One of the aspects of Proposition 207 most loudly and rightly lauded by justice campaigners is the establishment of a process through which individuals can petition to have their law enforcement and court records for many marijuana-related activities expunged.
This should include all those records relating to “arrests, charges, adjudications, convictions and sentences”.
7) New dispensaries (and laws and licensing for them)
It will be the Arizona Department of Health Services’ job to create rules which govern how marijuana and marijuana-related products can be bought, advertised, and sold in the state.
This will include licensing businesses which sell marijuana and marijuana products as well as establishing things like security and manufacturing requirements. Some of the features they are planning to focus on include a legal requirement for child-resistant packaging.
Another major focus will be on ensuring that the limited number of new dispensary licenses are assigned with social equity borne in mind.
There are many communities in Arizona which suffered disproportionately under the old system. Under the new post-Prop 207 system, it has been successfully argued that ownership of new dispensary licenses should be assigned disproportionately in favor of people from those communities.
That limited number of new dispensary licenses will be linked to the number of pharmacies operating in the state at a ratio of 10 pharmacies to every one dispensary.
What does Proposition 207 not do?
Many people think that Proposition 207 has answered the question of “is cannabis legal in Arizona?” with a resounding yes. On one level, it has.
But it has not done so to such a degree that Arizonans will be able to do literally anything they like with marijuana even after it has been legalized for recreational purposes.
You should remember that, even after Prop 207 comes fully into effect in Arizona:
- You cannot smoke marijuana in public places or in open spaces.
- You cannot operate any motorized vehicle while even slightly impaired by marijuana, or while consuming marijuana (although you are not technically guilty of Driving Under the Influence simply because of the presence of marijuana metabolites in your system any more – you have to be shown to be impaired, if only to the smallest degree).
- You cannot consume marijuana while you are a passenger in any sort of motorized vehicle.
- You cannot provide marijuana to individuals under 21 years of age.
- Your employer is not required to allow you to possess or consume marijuana at work.
- Your employer may still be able to terminate your employment if you test positive for marijuana even if you consumed it outside of work.
- Any school, day care facility, health care facility or corrections facility can ban you from using or possessing marijuana while on their grounds.
- A person who owns, manages or leases a property to you can ban you from using or possessing marijuana in that property.
Is weed legal yet in AZ?
Sadly – or, perhaps, sensibly – there are still a few things which need to happen even after Proposition 207 has passed and been verified for weed to be legal.
Legally, the governor needs to issue a formal proclamation legalizing marijuana for adult use. The Arizona Department of Health Services also needs to establish the new rules. From an enforcement standpoint, law enforcement officers need to be trained in what is allowed under the new laws.
There is likely to be a sort of legal gray area as the laws come into effect. This is the time where, on one hand, recreational use of marijuana will be legal. But on the other, no businesses will be licensed to sell it. This may mean that the only legal way to have marijuana in your possession will for it to be from plants you have grown yourself at home.
It’s likely that the time when weed will be fully legal in AZ after Proposition 207 has passed will be around May 2021.