Recently, I have been contacted by several individuals who hold valid Arizona medical marijuana cards but were arrested by police for alleged illegal marijuana sales. This is a sign that police agencies in the greater Phoenix area are increasing enforcement efforts against people who they believe are attempting to skirt the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Often these investigations result from legitimate marijuana patients and caregivers who advertise marijuana on various internet sites in exchange for a "donation."
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Statute
Simply put, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act allows a valid cardholder to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for medical purposes. Purchases can be made from a state licensed dispensary every two weeks as long as not more than 2.5 ounces is bought during that timeframe. A medical marijuana card can only be obtained by recommendation from a qualified physician after being diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.
In certain instances, medical marijuana patients can obtain pot from a designated caregiver. Designated caregivers must have permission to cultivate marijuana before being able to grow their own plants. Moreover, a caregiver can only provide medical marijuana to five patients and a cardholder is only allowed to have one designated caregiver. In order to receive marijuana from a caregiver, a patient must live at least twenty five miles from the nearest dispensary. Finally, a caregiver cannot cultivate more than twelve marijuana plants per patient.
Illegal Medical Marijuana Transactions
Many people mistakenly believe that a medical marijuana card or caregivers privilege allows them to freely provide marijuana to other patients. Pursuant to this belief, people will advertise marijuana on the internet and trade it to cardholders in exchange for a donation. Unfortunately, this is specifically prohibited by Arizona law and the Arizona courts which have considered these activities.
Specifically, A.R.S. 36-2811 provides that:
Nothing of value can be transferred for offering or providing marijuana to a registered qualifying patient, registered caregiver or nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary.
Donations are characterized as "something of value" and are viewed exactly the same as a marijuana sale.
The Consequences of Engaging in Marijuana Transactions for a "Donation"
People who are arrested and prosecuted for providing marijuana to others will face charges ranging from Illegal Control of an Enterprise to Possession or Transportation of Marijuana for Sale. These offenses can be categorized as Class 2, 3 or 4 felonies depending upon the length of time over which the activity occurs, the number of transactions which take place and the amount of marijuana involved. Individuals convicted for these offenses will face the possibility of being placed on probation, sentenced to prison and the imposition of significant fines.