Does Arizona Accept Out-of-State Medical Marijuana Cards?
If you’re planning a visit to the Grand Canyon State, you may be wondering whether Arizona accepts out-of-state MMJ cards and what you can expect from dispensaries once you arrive. The answer lies in Arizona's recreational and medical marijuana laws and a 2018 ruling in the Court of Appeals.
Overview of Arizona's Medical Cannabis Program
The history of medical marijuana in Arizona began in 1996 with Proposition 200, which allowed physicians to prescribe cannabis to qualifying patients. However, it wasn't until 2010 that the medical use of cannabis was truly legalized with Proposition 203. The first licensed dispensary in Arizona opened in December 2012.
Under Proposition 203, each medical marijuana patient can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks and grow their own cannabis plants if they live more than 25 miles from a dispensary. In order to qualify, patients must have one of the state's qualifying conditions and a doctor's recommendation for cannabis.
Qualifying Conditions in Arizona
In Arizona, medical marijuana cards are restricted to patients with severe and/or chronic conditions:
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Cachexia or wasting syndrome
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Persistent Muscle Spasms
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Severe and Chronic Pain
Overview of Recreational Marijuana in Arizona
On November 3, 2020, recreational cannabis became legal in Arizona when the Smart and Safe Act passed with a majority of 60%. This act permits adults 21 and above to possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana with up to 5 grams being cannabis concentrate.
The main difference between the medical and recreational programs—besides the lower possession limit—is that recreational cannabis sales are subject to a 16% excise tax in addition to the local sales tax, whereas medical patients only pay the local sales tax (which varies by city or county).
Does AZ Recognize Out-of-State Medical Marijuana Cards?
That brings us to the question at hand: Does Arizona accept out-of-state MMJ cards? According to Proposition 203, visiting qualifying patients enjoy the same immunity as local patients. This detail became relevant when an actual out-of-state case arose.
The Kemmish Case
In 2016, Stanley Kemmish Jr.—a California medical marijuana cardholder—was pulled over by state police and charged with possessing narcotic drugs, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. He argued in the appellate court that since he had a doctor's recommendation, he was allowed to possess and use cannabis as a "visiting qualified patient" under Arizona's medical marijuana laws.
In the Arizona Court of Appeals, the prosecution argued that a physician’s letter was not equivalent to an Arizona medical marijuana card. However, the three-judge panel ruled that any doctor's recommendation was acceptable (whether a card, letter, or other documentation) as long as the documentation was sufficient in the issuing state.
Limitations on an Out-of-State Medical Patient
To legally use and possess marijuana products for medical purposes, an out-of-state medical marijuana cardholder must:
Usually reside in another state or have lived in Arizona for less than a 30-day period
Have a physician's recommendation for marijuana
Have one of Arizona's qualifying conditions
At the time of the cannabis authorization ruling, it was decided that this reciprocity law would cover the possession of marijuana but wouldn't allow tourists to purchase cannabis at an Arizona dispensary. Access to dispensaries is less of an issue now, however, since purchases at recreational dispensaries are currently legal for all adults 21 and above.
How New AZ Cannabis Laws Affect Out-of-State Cardholders
Given that adult-use marijuana was legalized in November 2020, access for tourists with a medical marijuana card seems almost like a moot point. However, this law still affects out-of-state MMJ cardholders in certain situations:
The possession limit for recreational marijuana in Arizona is 1 ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of cannabis concentrate. In contrast, medical marijuana users can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower. While visitors won't be able to purchase more than 1 ounce of cannabis flower as per Arizona dispensary laws, a qualifying patient can still possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.