PHOENIX, Ariz. (Dec. 19 2016) – A bill set for introduction in the Arizona House would legalize marijuana for recreational use. Passage of the legislation would take a big step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in practice as well.

Rep. Mark Cardenas (D-Louisville) prefiled House Bill 2003 (HB2003) for introduction during the 2017 legislative session. The legislation would permit any individual age 21 or above to do the following:

1. Possess, consume, use, display, purchase or transport marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana.
2. Possess, grow, process or transport not more than five marijuana plants and the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown.
3. Transfer, without remuneration, one ounce or less of marijuana and not more than five immature marijuana plants to a person who is at least twenty-one years of age.
4. Assist another person who is at least twenty-one years of age in any of the acts described in this subsection.

The Department of Health Services would be tasked with regulating the new recreational marijuana industry under HB2003. Marijuana retailers would be required to register and have their locations approved by state and local officials.

An excise tax of $50 per ounce on cannabis would be levied with half the revenue from the tax going to the general fund and the rest going toward educational and health programs. Individuals under the age of 21 caught possessing one ounce or less of marijuana would be required to participate in a diversion program, or pay a fee not exceeding $300 dollars.

A ballot measure to legalize marijuana in Arizona failed in the November election by a narrow margin – 51.32 percent to 48.68 percent.

If HB2003 is successful during next year’s legislative session, Arizona would be the first legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than the ballot initiative process.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB2003 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.


The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of marijuana in Arizona would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By effectively ending state prohibition, Arizona could essentially sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.


Arizona could join a growing number of states that are simply ignoring federal prohibition and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis, with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states in November.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

HB2003 will need to be formally introduced and pass its committee assignments before it can be considered by the full House. Stay in touch with our Tenther Blog and our Tracking and Action Center for the latest updates.

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