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FAQs About Recreational Cannabis in Arizona

Arizona! You did it! Recreational cannabis is finally legal in your state. Thanks, Proposition 207 (and all you active voters)!

Well, let’s be clear. Recreational cannabis will be legal in Arizona soon — it isn’t fully legal just yet. The proposition may have passed on November 3, but the rules that let you possess, smoke, vape, eat, or nose-dive into a vat of concentrate won’t go into effect until November 30.

You can take the next couple of weeks to prepare for what’s coming, though. After all, this is a huge change for the state — which only had limited medical access until Prop 2017 passed. You need to know how this will work, what the rules are, and what you can look forward to. 

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Arizona’s new recreational cannabis rules, shall we?

When will it be legal to possess recreational cannabis in Arizona?

As of November 30, it will be legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Arizona. Adults 21 and older will also be able to possess less than 5 grams of cannabis concentrates as of November 30. 

You won’t be able to buy recreational weed in Arizona dispensaries until 2021, but you can smoke it (or vape it, or eat it) if you got it as of November 30th.

Speaking of buying rec cannabis in Arizona…

When will I be able to buy recreational cannabis in Arizona?

Well, this question is a little more complicated. The rules of the proposition state that Arizona’s Department of Health Services has to start accepting applications for medical dispensaries as of January 2021. Licenses will be issued within 60 days of applications to the dispensaries that qualify. 

That means March 2021 is the earliest you’ll see recreational marijuana on the shelves in Arizona. The timeline is still in flux, though, as the rules and regulations are solidified.

Either way, though, you can guarantee you’ll be able to buy recreational cannabis in Arizona by April 5. According to the proposition, the medical dispensaries in Arizona that are in good standing with the state will be able to offer sale to adults as of April 5, even if the licenses aren’t issued at that point.

Will new recreational dispensaries open once this goes into effect?

As of right now, the rec license priority will go to Arizona’s 120 medical dispensaries. They’ll get first dibs on the licenses for adult recreational sales.  

That leaves a handful of available licenses — 9 or 10 — that can be used by new applicants to open medical and recreational dispensaries. So if there are new dispensaries that open, it will only be a handful to start with.

What will be available on the shelves when rec sales go legal?

You can expect to see similar items to the ones that are on the shelves for medical patients right now: edibles, cannabis flower, concentrates, and topicals, for starters. Vape pens and other forms of concentrates will also be legally available on the recreational side of things. 

The big difference will be the strength of certain products. Recreational products like edibles will be limited to 10 milligrams of THC per serving or 100 milligrams per package, which is what other recreational states — like Colorado — are limited to for rec. That’s a lower ratio than what’s available on the medical side of things in Arizona.

There are also limitations on what cannabis products can look like under the new rules. Edibles can’t be shaped like anything a kid would be drawn to: bugs, animals, humans, fruits, toys, or cartoons. The products on the shelves can’t have similar names or branding to children’s products either.

Can I grow cannabis in Arizona, too?

You can! As with the new possession rules, growing your own cannabis in Arizona is allowed after the Nov. 30 deadline. If you want to grow your own plants, there’s a limit of six plants in a home with one adult. More than one adult in your home? The maximum you can grow is 12 plants in a house with more than one adult.

Will it be possible for me to get my marijuana conviction overturned under these rules?

Some states have rolled out measures that expunge convictions after legalization, and if you’re hoping for that to be the case in Arizona, you’re in luck.

The new measure states that people who were arrested, charged, adjudicated or convicted of possessing 2.5 ounces of cannabis or less and 12.5 grams of concentrate or less can petition to have their records expunged as of July 12, 2021. Anyone with a criminal record for having 6 marijuana plants or less — or anyone convicted of possessing marijuana paraphernalia — can also petition. 

The rules for expungement are a little convoluted, but the basic premise is this: If the prosecutors who were responsible for your conviction can’t prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that the crime does not qualify for expungement, you’ll be granted an expungement. In other words, the prosecutors would have to prove that your crime doesn’t qualify for expungement for you to be turned down.

What this means is that tens or even hundreds of thousands of people with marijuana convictions in Arizona could qualify to have their records cleared as of July 12. That’s a huge benefit of this measure — one you should take full advantage of if you qualify.

Will the state benefit from this?

There’s a huge benefit to this measure passing, and that’s the taxes the state will benefit from. Arizona’s recreational sales will have an excise tax of 16% on top of the regular sales tax. This is estimated to bring in between $254 million and $300 million in taxes annually once the rec sales ramp up. 

That’s a lot of tax revenue. How will the money be used?

Initially, the money made from the extra taxes will go to DHS and law enforcement to help run the recreational cannabis sales and licensing programs. The excess funds are earmarked to help support community colleges.

Will it be legal to drive under the influence of marijuana?

Is it legal to drive a car, a boat, or fly a plane after a few drinks? No, it’s not — and it will still be illegal to drive or fly any of those vehicles if you’re under the influence of cannabis, too. The tough part will be enforcing that, though.

You can’t easily test someone for being under the influence of cannabis — the metabolites stay in your system well after the body has processed the “high” from the plant, so law enforcement would have to prove that you were impaired by showing signs of erratic driving or by using some other marker.

That doesn’t mean you should do it, though — it goes without saying that you should never get behind the wheel when you’re impaired, no matter what you smoke, drank, or ate.


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