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.
The minimum age for recreational marijuana in Arizona is 21. However, any medical marijuana patient aged 18 and above can obtain a medical cannabis card in Arizona without the need for parental consent. For out-of-state medical patients, Arizona's limited reciprocity law may cover adults aged 18-20 for the possession of marijuana. However, they won't be able to purchase it at medical cannabis dispensaries.
As mentioned, the state of Arizona has a 16% excise tax on recreational sales in addition to local and state sales tax. This tax on adult-use sales is waived for medical cannabis patients who are permanent residents. As an out-of-state visitor aged 21 and above, you can purchase adult-use cannabis at dispensaries. However, in contrast to residents with a medical marijuana card, out-of-state MMJ cardholders do not benefit from the lower tax rate on retail sales.
Other Caveats for Visitors to Arizona
As marijuana is still federally illegal, you can't transport cannabis products across state lines—even with a medical marijuana card. This includes travel by land as well as by air. You also cannot possess marijuana on federal lands, such as national parks, monuments, and forests.
How Can Out-of-State Visitors Obtain Marijuana?
While we've answered the question, "Does Arizona accept out-of-state medical cannabis cards?," the question still remains: How can a visiting patient aged 18-20 obtain marijuana legally in Arizona if they can't purchase it via commercial sales?
The good news is that adults are allowed to give cannabis products to medical marijuana cardholders aged 18-20, even if they can't purchase these products themselves. Arizona's cannabis cultivation laws also permit adults to grow marijuana plants at home (6 plants per person or up to 12 plants per household with two or more adults), so if the cardholder is staying with friends who grow cannabis, they would be permitted to give the visitor up to 2.5 ounces of flower.
Should New Arizona Residents Get an MMJ Card?
New and seasonal residents in Arizona should ultimately consider applying for an Arizona MMJ card. As stated, out-of-state cannabis cards are good for a 30-day period. However, after that, you really need to have an Arizona-issued card. While you can still buy recreational marijuana as a tourist (provided that you are 21 or over and present a valid government-issued identification card), there are multiple benefits to having an Arizona-issued medical marijuana card:
Shop at medical marijuana dispensaries.
Buy marijuana if you're under 21 (and over 18).
Gain access to first-time patient deals and other special offers.
Gain access to free medical marijuana programs.
Cultivate more cannabis at home (the cultivation limits are 6 mature and 6 immature plants for patients who live more than 25 miles from a dispensary).
Continue to take your cannabis medicine without sanctions in a drug-free workplace.
How to Obtain an Arizona Medical Marijuana Card
To apply for an MMJ card, eligible patients can schedule an in-person visit or get an AZ medical marijuana card online via a telemedicine consultation with a doctor. You will need to present a valid photo ID and evidence of your medical condition if available. If approved, the licensed physician submits your application to the state of Arizona.
The application fee for a medical marijuana card in Arizona is $150, and the card is valid for two years. After two years, you will need to apply for your Arizona medical marijuana card renewal.
Essential Facts About Consuming Marijuana in Arizona
Whether you're planning to stay or just passing through, there are some things you need to know about using marijuana in Arizona:
You will need a valid government-issued identification card to enter a recreational dispensary in Arizona.
Marijuana can only be consumed in a private residence, hotel balcony (if the hotel permits), smoking room, or 420-friendly hotel room.
You can have marijuana in your car (in a closed packet that's out of your reach), but you cannot drive while under the influence or smoke marijuana while driving.
Marijuana cannot be consumed in public.
Marijuana cannot be taken onto federal lands (national monuments, national parks, and national forests).
You cannot give marijuana to anyone under 21 or smoke marijuana with them (unless they have a valid medical marijuana card).
The Takeaway for Cannabis Consumers
Arizona does accept out-of-state medical cards—at least as far as possession limits are concerned—and recreational marijuana can be purchased by any adult aged 21 and above.
So when you're in the Grand Canyon State, feel free to shop at any recreational pot shop, return to your favorite 420-friendly vacation rental, and enjoy your cannabis responsibly. If you're thinking of staying in Arizona for good, consider completing the application process for a local medical marijuana card and enjoy its many benefits.
Please note: This information is to be taken as a general guide only. Please consult with an attorney for advice relating to your specific situation.