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Understanding drug crimes and penalties in Arizona

Arizona has strict regulations governing substance-related offenses. Individuals who live in the state should understand how the law defines drug crimes and their possible penalties.

Knowing what to expect in the case of a conviction can help you prepare if you or a loved one faces drug charges.

Possession of controlled substances

Possession of cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine and other controlled substances is illegal in Arizona. The possession law also applies to prescription drugs without a valid prescription. In general, a first-time offense can lead to probation, drug counseling or jail time.

Subsequent convictions result in more severe penalties.  Drug crimes committed near a school, school bus or school property are also subject to enhanced penalties. Possession of paraphernalia used for manufacturing, distributing or using controlled substances is a separate charge.

Drug trafficking and distribution

These crimes involve the sale, transportation, manufacturing or distribution of illegal drugs. Penalties for drug trafficking can lead to lengthy prison sentences and substantial fines. The exact sentence will vary depending on the type and quantity of drugs involved. Additionally, the chemicals used in drug production can result in environmental violations, compounding the legal consequences.

Prescription drug fraud

Drug fraud charges include illegally obtaining prescription drugs, forging prescriptions or “doctor shopping” for drugs. Penalties for prescription drug fraud may include fines, probation and jail time.

According to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, the state prosecuted nearly 19,800 drug crimes in 2022 alone. Arizona has mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses. Individuals may have to serve a specific number of years in prison before becoming eligible for parole or early release.