What Are The Laws Regarding Medical Marijuana Use In Arizona?
Medical marijuana use is still evolving here in Arizona. An initiative for this coming election season is to legalize it entirely, which would be very consistent with what Colorado and Washington have done as well, but for now, I have several clients who use medical marijuana. The standard to process out here is that if you’re able to get a doctor’s approval or order to use medical marijuana, the prescription allows its use not only in certain places but also in certain amounts consistent with the medical marijuana license that was issued to you.
Obviously, there are a lot of legislation and laws surrounding the actual producers and production business of marijuana, as well, in terms of where they can be set up and how many plants they can be growing at any one time. This involves a lot of work on the part of the defense attorney, when dealing with these cases, because it doesn’t always completely excuse the possession and/or use of marijuana. But it definitely allows for people to have access to that in a way that helps them with medical or pain issues here in Arizona. So it’s been much more prevalent, and it’s still a situation where the county attorney’s office and other prosecution agencies aren’t willing to just let marijuana go to the bottom of the pile.
There are still tons of prosecutions when it comes to marijuana, and I’ve had a lot of cases where the individuals that were being prosecuted had medical marijuana cards, and we had to argue whether they had possession or their involvement in those charges was legal or not. Cases have gotten dismissed earlier on in the process when we’re able to show that this was all completely appropriate under the law; but as the law is still so new, the people prosecuting it aren’t always familiar with it as well, and so there is a lot of education going on back and forth as we deal with these new regulations.
What Is Considered Sale, Possession And Intent To Distribute In Arizona?
Possession just starts with the general idea that you have drugs in your possession, and obviously, there is a lot of leeway under the law in terms of what possession actually means. It can typically be the in your hand, in your pocket or in your bag type of possession, but possession can also be what’s called constructive. Constructive possession means that while the drugs may not be on your person, they are potentially within your control or within your domain to control. For example, if I’m sitting on a table and the drugs are across the table, it’s something that I could exert some control over — what we call dominion and control under the law — but something that I could get to and possess fairly easily.
Then I have some ability or right as well; so if I’m in my house and the drugs are in my house somewhere as well, if it’s in an area that I have access to and that I know about, then I could still have possession of them even if they’re not on me. Going up the ladder from just personal possession, personal use to possession for sale requires quite a jump and what we find that prosecutors and law enforcement are looking at here in Arizona is other than what we call Indicia of Sale: these are other indicators that drugs or these drugs are just possessed for personal use.
Some of these indicators that we see are when the prosecutors don’t think that an individual is a drug dealer per se, but they do believe that the intent of the individual with the amount of drugs they have is a felony even if it’s selling to just friends, family or other people for small amounts of money. What they look for is if the drug is over what they call the threshold. There is a statutory threshold that determines if you have more than X amount of drugs in a particular category; this is a presumption that it’s not just for personal use.
From there, you have to have some other indicators, such as if you have a scale or multiple scales so you can weigh and separate out smaller amounts of drugs. And then from there, you’d typically see smaller plastic baggies so that the drugs can be separated into those smaller amounts; and if they are stored that way already, that’s also a pretty good indicator that they are not just for personal use. But there are arguments against that as well, and a lot of the defense work we do is just trying to show that those things by themselves don’t indicate sale.
A lot of drug users do separate out their marijuana for personal use as well, but the more obvious indicators are any kind of text messages or communications that indicate in the common lingo that law enforcement is familiar with that people are trying to sell drugs to one another. Obviously, other indicators include large amounts or any amount of cash that’s found in the area where the drugs are located or cash that can’t be accounted for.
In the more obvious cases, there are ledgers, which are essentially hard copies noting individuals who have been sold to, what they owe and how much they have paid, and that’s a typical way for someone that’s selling drugs to keep track of all their debts and creditors as well.
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