In 2020, Arizonans voted by a 60% majority to pass Proposition 207, legalizing marijuana for adult-use in the state. And as of January of 2021, under the newly instituted Smart and Safe Act, Arizona dispensaries began selling marijuana for adult use.
No longer do you need an AZ MMJ card to purchase, possess and use marijuana in Arizona. Don’t be so quick, however, to toss out your Arizona medical marijuana card.
Since adult-use marijuana legalization in Arizona, many state residents who use medical marijuana are understandably wondering if they should even bother to renew medical marijuana card in Arizona once it expires. Others, who have yet to obtain an Arizona medical marijuana card but qualify for one, are wondering if they should even bother getting one after all.
In fact, there are a number of important reasons to keep your medical marijuana card in Arizona, even if you don’t need it to use cannabis legally in the state.
If you have an Arizona medical marijuana card, here are the top reasons why you should continue to renew medical marijuana card in Arizona, even in light of adult-use legalization. And if you don’t have an Arizona medical marijuana card yet, but you qualify for one, these are also the reasons to go ahead and get that AZ MMJ card, rather than simply relying on adult-use legalization to get the marijuana you need.
1. More Affordable Cannabis
Medical marijuana is more affordable than adult-use marijuana because the cultivators and distributors understand that they are providing much-needed medicine as a service to patients who need it. Medical marijuana growers and dispensaries care more about serving patients than making profit.
Adult-use cultivators and dispensaries can charge higher prices for their product because they know that the people buying it are not doing so because they need it, but because they want it. As such, the same amount of the same cannabis will cost more if you buy it from an adult-use marijuana dispensary than if you buy it from a medical marijuana dispensary.
According to a report in the Arizona Daily Star, medical marijuana can cost 25-75% less than recreational cannabis in the state.
This means you can get more marijuana for your money when you buy it from a medical marijuana dispensary than an adult-use dispensary.
Another key factor in making medical marijuana more affordable than adult-use marijuana involves taxes. The state taxes medical marijuana at a rate of 6% plus an optional tax of 2-3% the state allows local municipalities to charge. This adds up to approximately 8-9% sales tax on any purchase of medical marijuana in Arizona.
By contrast, to buy adult-use marijuana, you’ll pay a state excise tax of 16% plus a state retail tax of 5.6%, adding up to 21.6% tax for every adult-use cannabis purchase.
2. Higher Purchase Limits
Neither medical marijuana patients nor recreational users are allowed to purchase or possess however much marijuana they want at any given time. State law imposes limitations on how much marijuana you can have at once, whichever category you fall into. However, the limits for medical users are much higher and less restrictive than those for recreational users.
Under Arizona state medical marijuana law, or the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, patients with a valid medical marijuana card can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in any form or combination of forms, including dried flowers and concentrates or preparations made from that amount. By contrast, recreational users are only allowed up to one ounce of marijuana at any given time, with no more than 5 grams of that amount being in the form of a marijuana concentrate, like tincture, hash or dab.
3. No Age Restrictions
Adult-use marijuana is only legal in Arizona for people 21 years old and older. A medical marijuana patient, however, can be any age.
If you qualify for the Arizona medical marijuana program as a minor, you only need a parent or guardian to authorize you for a MMJ card and get a caregiver card of their own so they can procure your medical marijuana for you. No such option exists for anyone under 21 wishing to use marijuana recreationally under the AZ adult-use marijuana program.
4. Flexibility and Convenience
As a medical marijuana patient with an AZ MMJ card, you can purchase marijuana from either a medical dispensary or a recreational one. As a recreational user, however, you can only purchase marijuana from an adult-use dispensary. This gives you, as an AZ MMJ cardholder, more versatility in when and where you purchase the marijuana you need.
For example, if you’re a medical user who’s away from home without your medicine and the only dispensary for miles around is a recreational one, you can still purchase marijuana there. On the other hand, if you’re not a medical user and you’re out of marijuana, but there are only medical marijuana dispensaries around you, you’re also out of luck.
Note that your purchase limits remain, regardless of which types of dispensaries or at how many of them you make a purchase.
5. Protection for Parents in Custody Disputes
When you have a medical marijuana card in Arizona, your status as a registered medical marijuana patient in the state cannot be held against you in a child custody dispute. In order to do so, the other parent would need to demonstrate clearly and convincingly that your marijuana use has put your child’s health or safety at risk.
The Smart and Safe Act has general language providing basic immunity to people who abide by adult-use marijuana law and all other laws. Unlike the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, however, it does not lay out any specific protections for parents involved in a custody dispute who use marijuana recreationally.
6. Employee Protections
Similarly, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects workers from being fired from their jobs for testing positive for THC in a drug test at their place of work. The Smart and Safe Act contains no such protections.
7. More Potent Cannabis
The cannabis sold in medical marijuana dispensaries is more potent than cannabis sold in adult-use dispensaries, for a simple reason: medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to sell more potent marijuana than adult-use dispensaries.
For instance, when purchasing marijuana edibles, recreational marijuana users in Arizona are limited to those containing 10 mg or less of THC per serving and 100 mg or less per package. Medical marijuana users in Arizona, by contrast, do not have the same restrictions.
8. Shorter Lines and Wait Times
Since there will be far more recreational marijuana users than registered medical marijuana users in the state at any time, you can expect the lines and wait times at recreational marijuana dispensaries to be much longer in general than those at medical marijuana dispensaries.
And when a single dispensary serves both recreational users and medical marijuana patients, it will typically have two separate lines, and often separates entrances and servers as well. In these cases, too, the medical marijuana lines and wait times tend to be much shorter.