Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Starting With the Basics of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA)

There is so much ground to cover, so many significant developments to address, so much real hard news!  The newswoman in me wants to go straight to the news.  I might leave you behind, though, if you have not been following the AMMA since Election Night or sooner.  A fundamental reason I started Arizoneout is because I don’t think many employers even have the AMMA on their radar as something to care about.

So the only place I know to start is at the beginning, so here goes.

Proposition 203, adopted by Arizona voters in November 2011, contained 27 separate legal provisions, all of which are codified in Title 36, Chapter 28.1 of Arizona Revised Statutes.  Some of those 27 statutes have 5 or 10 subsections, and their subsections sometimes have sub-subsections.  It is not an easy read.

While only a few provisions of the AMMA are directly applicable to employers, a general familiarity with the structure and functioning of the law as a whole is important to a proper understanding of the workplace regulation it creates.

The legalizing essence of the AMMA can be found in ARS § 36-2811(B), which provides that a person who otherwise complies with the AMMA “is not subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner, or denial of any right or privilege, including any civil penalty or disciplinary action by a court or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau” for the possession or use of marijuana.  The law carves out an exception to the otherwise criminal conduct that the possession or use of marijuana is in the State of Arizona.

To fall within this carve out, the marijuana user must be a “qualifying patient” and must apply for and receive a registry identification card from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).  For now, the only other people who legally can possess marijuana are “designated caregivers,” who assist the qualifying patients in their medical use of marijuana.  Someday – maybe, if the federal-state conflict that I’ll address in future posts gets resolved – there may be another category of lawful possessors of marijuana.  Those will be “dispensary agents.”

These will be the categories of people among your employees who are protected against discrimination by the AMMA.

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