All you need to know about Arizona’s new marijuana law

By Amber Faigin
Staff Writer

Since Proposition 203 passed last November, a lot of wild rumors have been flying around about the implementation of new medical marijuana laws in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) released its 92-page document on March 28, listing the rules and regulations for the program. For those who are still in the dark about the new law, here are the basics:

Q: When will I start to see the effects of the new medical marijuana law?
A: In mid-August, ADHS will begin accepting applications to certify dispensaries, so look for the occasional new business to pop up.
Q: Is this going to turn into a ‘recreational’ law, like what they have in California?
A: This law is very different from California’s law and is much more restrictive as to who can buy or sell marijuana. To be clear, marijuana is still an illegal drug. Only qualifying patients with a prescription can posses medical marijuana.
Q: Will people be able to consume marijuana in public now?
A: Under the new law it is still illegal to consume marijuana on public transit or in public spaces. The law only protects patients taking their medicine in a private setting.
Q: How can I get access to a prescription?
A: On April 14, ADHS will begin accepting applications from patients with qualifying medical conditions. In order to submit one of these forms, you must first get a recommendation from a licensed medical doctor, with whom you have an established relationship. To apply for a card, you must also submit an $150 application fee.
Q: What sort of qualifying medical conditions does the law cover in Arizona?
A: Right now, prescriptions are available to patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s or a ‘chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition.’ In January 2012, ADHS will begin accepting petitions for additional medical conditions to be covered under the law, and then will continue to accept petitions every following January and July.
Q: If I have a prescription, do I risk losing my apartment or job?
A: The Act prohibits certain discriminatory practices. You cannot be denied a lease at an apartment or enrollment in a school unless it could cause the facility to lose federal benefits. An employer cannot refuse to hire, fire or put certain restrictions on you, unless it would cause them to lose federal benefits. Lastly, the law protects patients who have tested positive on a drug test from being fired, unless they were actively under the influence at work.
Q: If people can’t be fired for consuming marijuana, how do I know my electrician or doctor isn’t high?
A: It will still be illegal for a professional to be under the influence on the job, and it will still be illegal for somebody to be under the influence in a situation where it could be considered negligent or reckless.
Q: I’m worried about it being around my kids. How are they protected?
A: Under the new act, marijuana is not allowed on school buses, on the grounds of a preschool, primary school or high school; it is also prohibited on the property of a correctional facility. The sale of marijuana to minors will remain illegal.

For those who need it, the new medical marijuana law is a welcome benefit, and is written in such a way that it should not affect non-patients.

This article appeared in the April 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.
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