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Despite increased popularity, marijuana is illegal in Arizona

There's no question that cultural attitudes toward marijuana have shifted drastically in the last decade. With many states having legalized recreational use by adults or medical use for those with qualifying conditions, fewer Americans than ever support the continued prohibition of marijuana. Some see it as only a matter of time before federal law shifts, while others hope for state-by-state efforts to change criminal law.

Sadly, Arizona does not have a progressive policy when it comes to marijuana. In fact, Arizona laws are incredibly strict when it comes to marijuana offenses, even simple possession. Anyone charged with a marijuana offense in Arizona needs to treat those charges seriously, as the state most certainly will.

Arizona does have a medical marijuana law

For those with serious qualifying medical conditions, Arizona has established a medical marijuana program. Both adults and minor children can qualify for medical marijuana in Arizona.

Adults may legally grow up to 12 marijuana plants with a medical marijuana registry card, provided that they live at least 25 miles away from any licensed dispensary. Minors must designate a caregiver to grow or purchase medical marijuana on their behalf.

The conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana are chronic pain, Alzheimer's disease, ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease, cancer, nausea, cachexia, also called wasting syndrome, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, muscle spasms, seizures and post traumatic stress disorder. Patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of useable marijuana at any given time.

Non-medical users face felony charges for possession

If you have a qualifying medical condition and choose to treat it with marijuana, taking the time to apply and register with the state is critical to remaining free. Those with serious conditions who are not part of the program could face steep penalties and end up saddled with a criminal record for the rest of their lives. Those who use marijuana recreationally have no legal protections in Arizona.

Possession of any amount of marijuana in Arizona is a felony. For those accused of having less than two pounds, the penalties include between four months and two years in prison and a fine of as much as $150,000.

For those caught in possession of at least two pounds but less than four pounds, the potential jail sentence increases to between six months and two-and-a-half years. Possession of four pounds or more could result in between one year and three years and nine months in jail. The maximum fine remains the same.

Felony charges also apply to extracts and pipes

Possession of any amount of marijuana concentrates, such as hash or dabs could result in felony charges that carry between one year and three years and nine months in jail, as well as a fine of up to $150,000.

If police find you in possession of paraphernalia, including pipes, storage systems, vaporizers or other marijuana tools, that could result in an additional felony charge that carries between four months and two years in jail, as well as a maximum fine of $150,000. These charges are quite serious and could impact your life for years to come, especially if you are a minor.

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