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New court cases could change the fate of Arizona marijuana users

In 2020, the Arizona public passed Proposition 207, which opened the door for the Arizona legislature to legalize the recreational possession and use of marijuana. However, several ongoing court cases could change the level of protection that Arizonans have against arrest for possession of marijuana in their cars. If you are one of the hundreds of Arizonans who have been taking advantage of the effects of Prop 207, here’s what you should know:

State vs federal enforcement

State laws are completely independent of federal laws. Although marijuana possession was decriminalized on a state level, it remains a crime under federal law. Thus, according to Arizona law, adults can carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal recreational use, while under federal law any amount of marijuana is illegal to possess.

There have been several cases of Arizonan drivers who have driven on the highway with an amount of marijuana in their possession that is legal under state law, depending upon the protection of Prop 207. Highway patrol officers, however, have arrested these drivers, citing the enforcement of federal law as their justification.

As such, you should be aware that you may not have the level of protection that you think you do when traveling with marijuana in the car. Driving while under the influence of marijuana remains illegal in Arizona, but even traveling with a reasonable amount in your possession without smoking it could get you in trouble with the police.

The results of the ongoing court cases on the matter will determine the limits that Arizonans can expect to be placed on police officers for marijuana-related arrests in the future. Until then, drivers run the risk of arrest if they take to Arizona’s highways with any amount of marijuana in their possession, even if they do not smoke it.