By Paul Lewin | Contributor
In January of 2021, Arizona state legislators took the previously unimaginable leap of legalizing recreational marijuana sales with their signing of the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, more popularly known as Proposition 207. With this passage, Arizona joined fourteen other states that have broadly legalized the use of pot—an uncharacteristically progressive step for one of the more traditionally conservative states in the union.
The Sun Belt state’s march toward decriminalization was extensive. The legalization measure was approved four years after Arizona voters closely voted down a comparable proposal, although medical marijuana has been lawful in the state since 2010.
Prop 207 in a nutshell
People 21 and older may lawfully cultivate their own plants and possess up to an ounce (i.e. 28 grams) of marijuana or a lesser quantity of concentrates (e.g. hashish) under the provisions of Prop 207. Possession of quantities in excess of these limits is a minor offense with a maximum fine of $300.
While Prop 207 doesn’t quite raise the legal status of marijuana to that of non-psychoactive cannabis components like hemp-sourced cannabidiol or weed terpenes, it’s nevertheless an important step toward federal cannabis reform, and a transformative piece of legislation for the legal cannabis industry.
Arizonans have had well over a year to grow accustomed to the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, yet many are still unaware of key legal changes that have taken place since the passage of Prop 207. In this article, we go over important things you need to know about how the new legal status of recreational marijuana affects criminal laws and public regulations.
Workplace Exceptions to Recreational Marijuana Allowances
It’s legal for anyone 21 years old and above to use recreational marijuana in Arizona, as long as they comply with local laws. Lawful cannabis users may possess or grow limited amounts of marijuana if it is kept in a private dwelling. However, employers have the prerogative to enforce drug-free workplace policies in the same way other industries do. This implies that you can be fired by an employer for being a recreational marijuana user in accordance with company policy.
It’s worth noting that drug-free workplace policies can extend beyond the actual act of marijuana consumption. Although you might not get in trouble with the law for having a small amount of marijuana, your job could be at risk if you have it at work or if you come to your shift under the influence of its psychoactive compounds.
Public Recreational Marijuana Use
As expressed in Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) chapter 36-2851, smoking or vaping marijuana is prohibited in public spaces such as parks, cafes, bars, restaurants, and other establishments. Arizonans caught smoking or vaping marijuana in public may be charged with a petty offense, which can carry fines.
The restrictions around public marijuana use are based on the legal definition “public place” used in ARS 36-601, which is the same statutes that restrict public smoking. In a nutshell, citizens are not allowed to smoke or vape marijuana anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited. However, an important caveat is that it is not illegal to be under the influence of marijuana in public.
Provisions for marijuana-related paraphernalia items
Prop 207 allows for the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia like baggies, pipes, bongs, dab tools and cultivation tools in public, whereas before its passage Arizonans could be charged with a felony if caught with any of those items without a medical marijuana card.
While it’s now legal to carry marijuana-related items in public, citizens are still prohibited from carrying paraphernalia related to other illegal substances or drugs.
Possible Drug Charge Expungements in Arizona
Individuals that have been convicted of a marijuana offense in Arizona may now be eligible to petition the court for an expungement under ARS 36-2862. An expungement removes a prior conviction from a citizen’s record and will not show up on background checks conducted by employers or others.
Individuals with the following convictions are eligible to petition the court for an expungement:
The growing, cultivation or harvest of up to six marijuana plants in a private residence;
The usage, transportation or possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana or under, or up to 12.5 ounces of marijuana concentrates like hashish;
The use, carrying or transportation of marijuana-related paraphernalia items;
For Arizonans with qualifying marijuana charges on their criminal records, an expungement can provide the opportunity for a fresh start. If a petition for expungement is granted by the court, the relevant convictions will not be seen by prospective employers, business partners or landlords.
The fight for federal marijuana legalization rages on across the country, with encouraging success in many states. With the passage of Prop 207, it’s crucial for Arizonans to understand their rights as they relate to marijuana consumption, possession and expungement opportunities that come with major cannabis law reform.