4 Reasons to Keep Your Medical Marijuana Card in Arizona

Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

Since adult-use sales of recreational marijuana began in January, some Arizonans might wonder what’s the point of getting or keeping a medical marijuana patient card. If just showing a government-issued ID gets you access to everything at the weed store, why bother paying the state $150 a year ($250 or so if you need an exam and recommendation by a physician) to be a patient?

Turns out, there are some very good reasons to keep your MMJ card current. Here are four.

Cheaper Weed

There’s a 6.6 percent state excise tax on medical marijuana, plus an additional optional 2 to 3 percent tax depending on local municipalities, adding up to a maximum tax of 9.6 percent on MMJ purchases.

Recreationally speaking, that state excise tax jumps to 16 percent, added on top of a 5.6 percent state retail sales tax, for a total tax of 21.6 percent per purchase.

Put another way: Recreational buyers will pay a total tax of $21.60 on $100 worth of weed, while patients will only spend $9.60.

If you only buy a couple hundred bucks' worth of weed per year, then the difference is negligible. But if you're a heavy user, you'll want to check and see if you're spending more than $150 a year on taxes for your recreational purchases.

Parental Protections in Custody Disputes

Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which passed in 2010, your medical marijuana patient status can't be used against you in a child-custody dispute.

“The other parent would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the patient-parent’s medical use of marijuana poses an unreasonable danger to the safety of the child. That’s a pretty tough standard,” says attorney Thomas Dean, who specializes in defending clients accused of marijuana-related offenses.

But, Dean says, “We don’t have anything like that in the [recreational] Smart and Safe Act — just the general immunity statement without any specific reference to parental rights.”

In other words, the other parent can posit in court that your recreational marijuana use is a danger to the child, without necessarily having to prove anything.

More Plants for Your Home-Grow

People who want to grow their own cannabis plants are limited to six plants per individual (with a maximum of 12 plants per household) under the recreational law passed in Arizona in 2020.

But under the state's 2010 medical marijuana law, licensed caregivers can grow up to 12 plants per patient, with a maximum of five patients – for a total of 60 plants per household.

Employment Protections

Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, an employer can’t fire an employee for testing positive for THC on a drug test. (Though, as Phoenix New Times reported in early 2020, prior to recreational legalization, it's sometimes complicated.)

“Under the new law, there is nothing preventing employers from doing so,” Dean says. “So, if a person’s job requires random drug testing, then I think certainly it would be a good idea to hold onto that patient card.”
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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea