When it comes to drug crimes in Arizona, the difference between possession and trafficking determines how severe the charges and possible sentence will be. There is a threshold under which the law considers possession to be simple possession, and over which the law presumes that you intend to distribute the substance.
This threshold is different for each illegal or controlled substance, but these amounts are clear and definitive under the law.
While drug laws and schedules do change over time, Arizona currently abides by the code in Arizona Revised Statutes Title 13. Criminal Code § 13-3401. These laws categorize illegal drugs into six degrees, which the federal government and other states call “schedules.”
These categories include, in order of severity from most severe to least, narcotic drugs and “drugs that emit toxic vapors,” dangerous drugs, prescription drugs, peyote and illegally-possessed marijuana (as medical marijuana is legal in Arizona). Generally speaking, the more severe the categorization of the substance in question, the more severe the charges.
Within these categories, the law considers certain amounts to be possession and presumes others to be trafficking. For example, if you have more than nine grams of cocaine or methamphetamine or more than two pounds of illegal marijuana, the law may presume that you had the intent to sell the substance in question.
This means that even if you had a large amount of a drug for personal use, you could face trafficking charges for a sale you never intended.
This does not mean, however, that possession of smaller amounts will never result in trafficking charges. Keep in mind that other circumstances, such as an arrest during a sale, could also result in trafficking charges for a small amount under the threshold.
After an arrest, there are still available defenses to avoid a conviction depending on your circumstances. You may be able to claim that you possessed the substance against your will or knowledge, for example, or that the search was illegal or the substance was for religious use. The options available will depend on the unique conditions of the arrest and evidence against you.