Of the total population in Arizona of 6,500,180, there are at least 500,000 regular marijuana users. That’s close to 10% of the population! In other words, one out of 10 residents of Arizona is considered to be hardened criminals simply because he or she chooses to use marijuana (responsibly in most cases). Some people use marijuana as a medical necessity, others as a religious sacrament. Most simply use marijuana socially or to relax after a hard day’s work; the same reasons that the majority of the population prefers to use alcohol, a far more dangerous substance. Marijuana has no real consequences to anyone. Who has ever even heard of domestic violence case involving marijuana? Most people now realize that marijuana DUIs are a legal fiction. All studies of the effects of marijuana on motor function agree; marijuana does not cause physical impairment (except that persons using marijuana tend to drive a little slower than normal).
Marijuana users all have one thing in common; they are all hunted down by the government of Arizona as unrepentant criminals. In 2007, almost 22,000 people in Arizona were arrested for a marijuana offense. Approximately 20,000 of those were for simple possession for personal use!For a detailed discussion of Arizona marijuana arrests, please check outJon Gettman’s comprehensive report.Arrest numbers in Arizona vary significantly from county to county.
Arrest rates impact younger adults disproportionately. Coconino County is the hardest on the younger population. Also, as should be expected, minority arrests are disproportionately numerous in all counties.
For those who are interested, here are the statistics nationwide:
Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent, 754,224 Americans were charged with possession only. The remaining 93,640 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. In past years, roughly 30 percent of those arrested were age 19 or younger.
The following is a summary of Arizona’s marijuana laws, statutes responsible for needlessly destroying of the lives of thousands of Arizonans every year. If you are among them, don’t lose hope. You do not have to stand alone. An experienced marijuana lawyer like Tom is ready and able to help.
Please review the following chart for more information about the marijuana offense you are facing. Please keep in mind that the chart is only a summary of the legal consequences of a conviction. For further information about any particular offense, please contact Tom or refer to the right hand “Areas of Practice” column of this page. You may also want to check out the Resources & Links page.
|less than 2 lbs||misdemeanor or felony||6 months – 1.5 years||$750 – $150,000|
|2 lbs to 4 lbs||misdemeanor or felony||9 months – 2 years||$750 – $150,000|
|4 lbs or more||felony||1.5 – 3 years||$750 – $150,000|
|Near school or bus||felony||additional 1 year||additional $2000|
|* Eligibility for first and second conviction with drug treatment and testing|
|Cultivation / Production|
|Less than 2 lbs||misdemeanor or felony||9 months – 2 years||$750 – $150,000|
|2 lbs to 4 lbs||felony||1.5 – 3 years||$750 – $150,000|
|4 lbs or more||felony||2.5 – 7 years||$750 – $150,000|
|Possession for Sale|
|Less than 2 lbs||felony||1.5 – 3 years||$750 – $150,000|
|2 lbs to 4 lbs||felony||2.5 – 7 years||$750 – $150,000|
|4 lbs or more||felony||4 – 10 years||$750 – $150,000|
|Sale or Delivery for Sale|
|Less than 2 lbs||felony||2.5 – 7 years||$750 – $150,000|
|2 lbs or more||felony||4 – 10 years||$750 – $150,000|
|Possession Paraphernalia||misdemeanor or felony||6 months – 1.5 years||up to $150,000|
|Impaired to Slightest Degree||Misdemeanor or Felony||Varies||Varies|
|THC Metabolites in Blood||Misdemeanor or Felondy||Varies||Varies|
Simple Possession: In Arizona, convictions for possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia is a criminal offense and may be charged either as a misdemeanor or felony, at the discretion of the State.
Incarceration cannot be imposed for a first or second offense, but probation may be imposed and drug treatment or education may be required, especially if it is a second offense. While unlikely, in some cases, persons on probation must also submit to urine drug tests as a condition of their probation.
Beginning with the third offense, incarceration is at the discretion of the judge.
Sales/Cultivation: Convictions for marijuana offenses related to the sale, possession for sale and cultivation are punishable by imprisonment, but probation may be granted at the discretion of the judge for the first offense. After than, prison time is mandatory unless a plea agreement is reached that specifically calls for probation.
Early Release: With the exception of school zone cases, a person sentenced to prison is eligible for early release after serving approximately 85% of the total prison sentence.
School Zone Enhancement: Possession or sale within 300 feet of a school, on any public property within 1000 feet of any school, at any school bus stop or on any bus transporting pupils to or from school adds an additional one year to any prison sentence and anyone sentenced to prison is not eligible for early release (parole).
Marijuana DUI: Arizona has a zero tolerance law enacted. This means that drivers are forbidden from operating a motor vehicle if they have any detectable level of an marijuana in their system, as indicated by the presence of THC metabolites (i.e., compounds produced from chemical changes of a drug in the body, but not necessarily psychoactive themselves) present in their bodily fluids. It is not necessary for the State to prove that the presence of THC metabolites caused any impairment.
The tragedy of marijuana prohibition, of course, is nationwide and knows no boundaries. While some parts of the country are better off than others, all state and Federal Laws, subject our entire nation to some form of penalty for the use of marijuana. Why? There is no logical justification. In America, marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Our public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.
Marijuana is far less dangerous than both alcohol and tobacco combined. Around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. Similarly, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose. According to the prestigious European medical journal, The Lancet, “The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. … It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat … than alcohol or tobacco.”
Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion annually and results in the arrest of more than 847,000 individuals per year — far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Any and all rational adults should support the removal of all penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. This policy, known as decriminalization, removes the consumer — the marijuana smoker — from the criminal justice system, while maintaining criminal penalties against those who sell or traffic large quantities of the drug.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended that Congress adopt this policy nationally in the United States. Since then, more than a dozen government-appointed commissions in both the U.S. and abroad have recommended similar actions. None of these commissions have endorsed continuing to arrest and jail minor marijuana offenders. Summaries of these studies are available here.
Since 1973, 13 state legislatures Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi,Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. In November,Massachusetts voters passes a passed a statewide initiative making the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana an infraction punishable by no more than a $100 fine. The law took effect on January 2, 2009. In each of these states marijuana users no longer face jail time (nor in most cases, arrest or criminal records) for the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana. According to national polls, voters overwhelmingly support these policies. In Oregon, voters recently reaffirmed their state’s decriminalization law by a 2-1 margin in a statewide referendum.
Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion annually and results in the arrest of more than 829,000 individuals per year — far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. This policy is a tremendous waste of national and state criminal justice resources that should be focused on combating serious and violent crime. In addition, it invites government unnecessarily into areas of our private lives, and needlessly damages the lives and careers of hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens. NORML believes now, as former President Jimmy Carter told Congress in 1977, that: “Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”
America tried alcohol prohibition between 1919 and 1931, but discovered that the crime and violence associated with prohibition was more damaging than the evil sought to be prohibited. With tobacco, America has learned over the last decade that education is the most effective way to discourage use. Yet, America fails to apply these lessons to marijuana policy.
By stubbornly defining all marijuana smoking as criminal, including that which involves adults smoking in the privacy of their own homes, we are wasting police and prosecution resources, clogging courts, filling costly and scarce jail and prison space, and needlessly wrecking the lives and careers of genuinely good citizens.
Join Tom in his fight to recover the right of every American to the “pursuit of happiness”; an “inalienable” right “endowed by our creator.” Please actively support the decriminalization marijuana and help end the “reefer madness” that has plagued America for 80 years. Stand up for your rights and the rights of millions of your fellow Americans. More importantly, if you have personally become a victim of the drug war crusade, don’t stand alone. Tom Dean will fight for you. Contact Tom.