Arizona’s Proposition 205 -Legalization of Marijuana
If Prop 205 passes, marijuana does not become instantly legal statewide. Sales of cannabis could begin as soon as March 1, 2018. The proposition establishes the creation of a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control that would be responsible for licensing and regulating retail stores as well as entities involved in growing, manufacturing, distributing, and testing marijuana products. The governor would appoint the director as well as the seven members of the Marijuana Commission—four of whom would have no financial stake in a marijuana establishment and three with a “controlling” interest in a marijuana establishment.
Cannabis would only be sold at shops licensed by the state, and the number of licensed marijuana retail stores would be capped at 10 percent of the number of Series 9 liquor store licenses. Localities would have the power to impose limits on where and when marijuana businesses are allowed to operate. People could also give marijuana to other people, provided that the amount involved is not more than one ounce, there is no money exchanged, and the gift is not publicly advertised.
Prop 205 would also implement a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales. While tax revenue will go to the Department of Revenue to fund the implementation and enforcement of regulations, 80 percent of the additional revenue would be allocated for the Department of Education (half of which would be for school construction, maintenance, and operating costs, and the other half for full-day kindergarten programs) and 20 percent would be allocated to the Department of Health Services for public education efforts.
Arizona has seen aggressive campaigns both in support of and against Prop 205. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a national marijuana policy reform organization, has been the primary funder for the legalization campaign while business groups like the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and other organizations have supported anti-Prop 205 campaigns.
Marijuana Arrests Under Current State Law in Arizona
If Prop 205 passes, it will not make marijuana usable in public. Passage would, however, presumably lead to a significant reduction in the number of cannabis-related arrests in Arizona. According to annual reports compiled by the Access Integrity Unit of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, thousands of people have been arrested for marijuana offenses every year over the past decade:
||Sale or Manufacturing of Marijuana
Legalizing recreational possession of up to one ounce of marijuana would help numerous people avoid what can be significant potential consequences under current state law. Right now, alleged offenders who are accused of certain crimes involving one ounce or less of cannabis can face the following charges under Arizona Revised Statute § 13-3405:
- Possession of Marijuana — Class 6 felony punishable by up to two years in prison;
- Production of Marijuana — Class 5 felony punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison; and
- Transportation or Importation of Marijuana for Sale — Class 3 felony punishable by up to 8.75 years in prison.
It is important to remember that despite its medicinal benefits for people suffering from certain ailments, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Schedule I controlled substances are supposedly drugs, substances, or chemicals that are defined “as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” People facing federal charges related to marijuana offenses in Arizona can be subject to even longer prison sentences and bigger fines.
Arizona Medical Marijuana Laws
Arizona is among the half of the states in the nation that have legalized cannabis for medical use. In 2010, voters approved Proposition 203, more commonly known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). Under AMMA, approved patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary every two weeks and possess up to 2.5 ounces at any time. Certain approved patients are allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants or find a caregiver to grow the cannabis for them.
Medical conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana include:
- Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS);
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease;
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS);
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); or
- A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures (including those characteristic of epilepsy), or severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
If Prop 205 passes on November 8, the medical marijuana program would continue as is. Responsibility for regulation of the program, however, would shift from the Arizona Department of Health Services to a new department in September 2017.
What to Do if You are Arrested for Marijuana in Arizona
If you are arrested for any kind of cannabis-related offense in Arizona after the Prop 205 vote, you should not say anything to authorities without legal representation. Many drug-related crimes involve violations of alleged offenders’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Marijuana arrests may stem from routine traffic stops in which alleged offenders allow police officers to search their vehicles. The discovery of even a small amount of cannabis can lead to people facing felony charges. The amount in question plays an important role in determining the severity of the criminal charges.
Under state law in Arizona, the “threshold amount” for marijuana is two pounds. Any amount exceeding the threshold can be legally presumed to be intended for sale. When the element of an intent to sell marijuana is added to criminal charges, it not only leads to more serious criminal charges but also more aggressive prosecution.
Alleged offenders who have no previous convictions for drug-related offenses may be eligible for deferred prosecution in marijuana possession cases. With deferred prosecution, alleged offenders who successfully complete all terms of the probation they are placed on may be able to have the criminal charges dropped.
On the other hand, alleged offenders who have been previously convicted of drug-related offenses will typically face felony charges that carry steep consequences. In addition to possible prison sentences and orders to pay significant fines, felony convictions can carry lifelong consequences. People convicted of felony offenses can experience enormous difficulty obtaining employment, housing, or professional licenses.
Criminal Defense Lawyer for Alleged Marijuana Crimes in Mesa, AZ
It is in the best interest of any person arrested for an alleged marijuana crime to immediately retain legal counsel. The Law Office of James E. Novak aggressively defends clients throughout the greater Maricopa County area.
James Novak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Mesa who has handled these types of cases on both sides of the aisle. As a former prosecutor in Maricopa County, he can identify the weaknesses in a prosecutor’s case and fight to possibly have criminal charges reduced or dismissed.
The Law Office of James E. Novak is committed to helping people charged with possession, sale, or cultivation of marijuana achieve the most favorable outcomes to their criminal cases. Our lawyer represents clients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, and many surrounding areas of Maricopa County.
You can have our attorney provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (480) 413-1499 or complete an online contact form today to schedule a fee, confidential consultation.
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