Ever since medical marijuana was legalized in Arizona in 2010, more than 200,000 people have gained the legal right to possess limited amounts of the substance under the state's medical marijuana program.
With the new medical marijuana law signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in June 2019, we can only expect that figure to grow in the foreseeable future.
First, let’s talk about some of the highlights of Senate Bill 1494, which puts forth some amendments to Arizona’s existing medical marijuana laws.
Testing medical marijuana
Sponsored by Republican Sen. David Gowan, SB 1494 will require the dispensaries that operate within the state’s medical marijuana industry to test their products to ensure that they’re safe to use. Aside from weeding out pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, mold, heavy metals, and other toxins and impurities, the tests are also meant to confirm the potency of the marijuana they are dispensing. Most importantly, it also requires dispensaries to provide patients and caregivers the results of such tests as soon as they ask for it.
It’s about time for Arizona to have a marijuana testing requirement, which will be implemented starting November 1, 2020. For some time now, Arizona, along with Rhode Island, has been the only one among 33 states (and the District of Columbia) that has legal medical marijuana that doesn’t require marijuana testing.
The new law benefits the state’s medical marijuana patients immensely, as the testing requirement, once strictly implemented and followed, assures them they will get only safe, high-quality weed every single time they use their medical marijuana card.
Cheaper medical marijuana card
Speaking of medical marijuana cards, the new law also ensures that acquiring one will be much more affordable.
Under SB 1494, a medical marijuana card will cost patients $150 a year. While the price is still very much the same as the current one, the state’s new patient registration system will now issue cards that will be good for two years, not one year as it currently is. That means the cost of obtaining a medical marijuana card will be cut in half.
Keep in mind, however, that the two-year validity is only applicable to cards issued after August 27, 2019, the date the law took effect. So whatever expiration date is indicated on the medical marijuana card that you’re using right now, that would be it for that card, regardless of whether or not it was issued before or after the date of effectivity of the new law.
DUI and medical marijuana
The law remains firm about driving under the influence (DUI) of medical marijuana. Anyone caught driving with traces of marijuana in the blood will still need the services of a DUI defense attorney.
Under A.R.S. 28-1381(A)(1) of the Arizona Revised Statutes, anyone caught driving under the influence of marijuana and found to be impaired even to the slightest degree will face DUI charges. Whether the person has a legal prescription for marijuana or not does not matter. As long as tests show that there is, indeed, marijuana in a person’s system at the time he or she was stopped, the state of Arizona will charge him or her with a DUI, even if that person is not showing any indication of impairment.
DUI marijuana penalties in Arizona
In the case you’re arrested for a DUI marijuana in Arizona for the first time, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. If convicted, you will face penalties that include a minimum of one day and a maximum of 6 months in prison; fines and fees; mandatory Ignition Interlock Device installation; one-year revocation of driver’s license; and mandatory substance abuse program. Get caught with a second offense DUI marijuana, you will be charged with a felony, and, if you get arrested for a third offense DUI marijuana, the punishment for which will be quite harsh. However, with proper legal services, a DUI marijuana arrest doesn’t mean an automatic conviction.