With more and more states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, it is only logical to ask the question of whether the same applies to Arizona. Marijuana possession is Arizona is still regarded as a criminal offense and if caught, you might be facing serious consequences.
Only medical marijuana is decriminalized in Arizona; however, all patients to whom marijuana has been prescribed as a part of their treatment need to hold a valid medical marijuana card issued by the state.
If caught possessing marijuana, the immediate action you should take is to contact a criminal defense attorney who will take over the case and take the necessary steps to minimize the penalties.
Possible Penalties for Marijuana Possession
If you cannot provide a medical marijuana card when charged with possession of an illegal intoxicating substance, you could be facing serious penalties depending on the amount of marijuana you are caught with. Amounts under 2 pounds are considered as less serious in comparison to quantities over 4 pounds.
Possession for personal use – Fines for possession can go up to $150.000 and prison sentences range between a minimum of 6 months if caught with less than 2 pounds to up to 3 years if caught with an amount higher than 4 pounds.
Cultivating and production – A person who is cultivating marijuana without permission could be facing up to 7 years in prison for quantities over 4 pounds. If charged with cultivation and production of an illegal substance, fines can go up to $150.000.
Possession for sale – If charged with the criminal offense of possessing marijuana with the intention to sell it, the jail time sentence can be much more severe and it can go up to 10 years in prison. Fines for such offenses can reach $150.000.
Sale or delivery for sale – Similar to possession for sale, if charged with possession of marijuana with the intention to sell and deliver, fines go up to $150.000 with a maximum of 10 years jail time.
Usable Amount and Medical Limitations
If a person is caught in possession of marijuana yet it is a small amount which is not considered as usable, charges might be avoided. Still, there is some circumstantial evidence that might raise questions – if paraphernalia is found on the spot, it will be impossible to completely avoid being charged.
As for medical marijuana users who have a valid card, a maximum of 2.4 ounces every 14 days is allowed. If the amount is exceeded, law enforcement has the right to get involved on suspicions of possession for recreational use or intention to sell.
What Can a Criminal Justice Attorney Do For You?
While marijuana possession is not taken lightly in Arizona, it is possible under some circumstances to avoid jail time and high fines by having the charges reduced to misdemeanor of the first class.
This, however, depends on the type of the offense and if the crime has been repetitive.
For first and second time offenders who have been caught and charged with possession of illegal intoxicating substances, exclusively referring to marijuana, jail time can be replaced by a diversity program, community work, probation and fines.
The court is usually willing to drop the charges if the defendant agrees to take part in a diversity program. This is a conditional plea deal – if you successfully complete the program all charges will be dismissed. However, if you miss diversion program classes or test positive for drugs, the deal might be off and you might be found guilty of the charges.
Still, diversity programs and probation apply only if the offense was non-violent; if the person is being charged with other offenses alongside with possession, reducing the offense to misdemeanor will prove to be much more challenging, which is why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to take over your case and get the best out of the situation.
Even for first-time offenders building a good defense by themselves can be a very demanding task. The laws are complex and even though lowering the sentence from felony to misdemeanor is possible, it is still better to fight the case with a help of an attorney to make sure you will get the best out of the situation.
Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.