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Arizona Legalized Recreational Cannabis, so Why Get a Medical Card?

By Sarah Gorbutt June 17, 2021

Arizona recently passed Proposition 207, taking a giant leap and following several other Western states in the legalization of recreational marijuana. Though cannabis must be purchased from licensed and regulated state dispensaries, it opens up the world of legal marijuana use to individuals who do not qualify for a medical card but want to partake in the benefits or recreational uses of cannabis in all its different product forms.

Most people would say this is a step in the right direction as more states move toward legalization. Some people left scratching their heads, though, are those who already have (or were considering getting) a medical card. Should you keep your medical card? Should you go through with getting one if you aren’t already a cardholder? With fees and restrictions associated with medical cards, people may forgo the opportunity. For some, this move makes sense, but for many individuals, there are unique benefits to having a medical card, even in a legal state.

Let’s break down how marijuana legalization affects med cardholders.

Why Get (or Keep) a Medical Card?

There are several important reasons why it’s worth it to get or keep your medical card. Some of them you would expect, while others you may not have considered. This list of reasons is hardly exhaustive, but here are a few:


Can you get fired for having a medical card in Arizona? No. However, under Prop 207, employers can discriminate however they see fit for recreational users. Therefore, if you thought that recreational legalization statewide would protect you from being fired for a positive test, think again. Employers reserve the right to ban marijuana use, no matter if it takes place off the clock. As many people know, cannabis stays in the system for a longer period of time than that of other substances: and is present in a hair-strand test weeks later. Therefore, if you are someone who uses marijuana for a legitimate medical reason on a regular basis, you may be able to get it without a medical card, but you will have no protection from employer regulations and could be at risk of getting fired. Even proving your condition may not hold up in a (potentially costly) civil suit if you do not hold a med card in Arizona.

Purchasing and Possession

Recreational marijuana users can purchase one ounce per transaction at a dispensary, while every two weeks, medical marijuana users can purchase 2.5 ounces. Recreational users can only possess one ounce, and the products within that ounce are restricted to a maximum of only 5 grams of concentrates. In addition, recreational users are limited to 100mg per edible and 10mg per piece/dose, while medical card holders have no limit on their selection of edible. Medical marijuana users can possess up to two-and-a-half ounces, and there are no restrictions on what products you can purchase. Consequently, med cardholders have more freedom in terms of what they can buy and keep on their person.


This may seem like a no-brainer, but with legalization in Arizona comes an increased demand for cannabis products across the board. Often, dispensaries sell medicinal and recreational marijuana but have separate lines or areas for recreational and medicinal users. In these cases, medical cardholders are typically given priority. Additionally, your med card will allow you to buy from dispensaries that do not sell or specialize in recreational sales.


Prop 207 has only recently passed, and prices are still fluctuating. Patterns from other states that legalized long before us show that both initial and lasting demand can make the price of recreational marijuana soar. At the very least, it can fluctuate like any other consumer product. When states legalize, though, the price of medicinal marijuana typically stays the same, and sometimes drops. Its pricing is regarded more as a prescription drug than a recreational product, which helps stabilize the cost of cannabis for cardholders. If the fees are your primary concern for getting or keeping a card, this is important to keep in mind, as medicinal marijuana savings add up over time.


There is no age limit on medical marijuana use. While it is no company’s place to promote recreational marijuana use among minors, medical marijuana has been proven to help people of all ages with a wide range of health conditions. In some circumstances, this is a very relevant consideration.


Medical marijuana users save even more compared to recreational users by way of taxes. Medical cannabis products have only sales tax (state and local), like any other good you purchase from the store. Recreational products have these taxes in addition to a 16% excise tax. And in some places in AZ, you might pay a total of 24.6% tax or higher as a recreational user.

How Hard Is It to Get a Medical Card in Arizona?

Getting a Medical Card in Arizona

Simply put, Arizona is neither the easiest nor the hardest state in which to get a medical marijuana card. Some states have higher restrictions, while others provide resources that make it even easier. Overall, if you have a legitimate reason to hold a med card, the process shouldn’t be too grueling. What you will need is a physician who is licensed to recommend marijuana in Arizona. The restrictions on what type of physician aren’t very tight. They can be an MD (allopathic, standard medical doctor), a DO (osteopathic doctor), a licensed naturopath/holistic medicine doctor (NMD or ND), or a pot doc. Some doctors hold more than one of these licenses, which is also okay. The physician can fill out the Arizona DHS medical marijuana certification form on your behalf, which can be difficult information to fill in by yourself.

However, you will still ultimately need to submit an online application, which requires the physician information, an approved ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.), a patient attestation form, a current physical photograph (similar to a passport photo), and SNAP information if you receive those benefits currently. The only aspect of this process that makes Arizona a bit more restrictive than other areas in the US is that some states provide a list of qualified physicians who prescribe medical cannabis. In Arizona, you have to complete this research for yourself. However, a quick Google search will bring up dozens of doctors to choose from.

What Qualifies for a Medical Card in AZ?

The medical conditions and concerns that qualify for a medical card are similar across the United States. Keeping in mind conditions are not limited to this list, in Arizona, the following conditions qualify you for a card to purchase cannabis for medical purposes:

  • Cancer (or as a relief for side-effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy)
  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
  • Other immunodeficiency disorders verified by your physician
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Crohn's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Alzheimer’s and other severe forms of dementia
  • Cachexia (also known as wasting syndrome)
  • Chronic pain
  • Severe pain from injuries and disabilities
  • Chronic or severe nausea
  • Seizures (both associated and not associated with epilepsy)
  • MS (multiple sclerosis)
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

Do I Need a Medical Card to Buy at a Dispensary in Arizona?

Do you need a medical card to purchase cannabis in the state of Arizona? In the past, you did. Now, however, you have the option of purchasing marijuana recreationally instead or even exclusively. While you do not need a med card, you may want one for the reasons mentioned above.

What Is a Caregiver and How Do I Become One?

If you care for someone who benefits (or would benefit) from medical marijuana but requires assistance—or if you would like assistance using cannabis—you will be glad to know that MMJ caregivers are an option in Arizona’s medical marijuana program. These designated individuals can help others use medical marijuana after a qualified physician has prescribed it. To become a caregiver in Arizona, you must:

  • Be 21 years old.
  • Not have a felony offense related to controlled substances or violent crime.
  • Agree to assist a qualifying patient with using medical cannabis.

You do not have to be a home health aide or a relative, such as a child or a parent, in order to be a caregiver.

Can I Own a Gun if I Have a Medical Card in Arizona?

Many people who want and feel that they qualify for a medical card wonder if their right to use cannabis legally will interfere with their second amendment right to bear arms. There are many active debates in the US surrounding gun laws, including concerns about cannabis use. To make matters more complex, it is technically legal to buy a firearm while holding a medical card at the state level in Arizona. However, because marijuana laws vary from state to state and federal laws generally change very slowly, it is a federal offense to own or purchase a firearm anywhere in the United States if you are a med card holder. This is because people who actively use both legal and illicit substances for various purposes are at a higher likelihood of being impaired while using a firearm.

Some of this legislation is rooted in evidence, while some legislation is based on stigmas against people who use marijuana medically. Though these laws may change in the coming years, it is essential to remember now that it is a federal offense to attempt to purchase a gun if you are a med card holder. If you are someone who takes the right to bear arms seriously and is interested in owning or continuing to own a gun, you likely need to avoid getting a medical card in Arizona or any US state.

Can I Own a Gun if I Have an Expired Medical Card in Arizona?

With the information just presented, you may be rightfully concerned about owning a firearm if you have ever held a medical card in Arizona. If you let a medical card lapse, it is no longer illegal to purchase a registered firearm at the state or federal level, though, an individual must meet all other physical and mental requirements, in addition to criminal background checks and holding an ID. These regulations vary from state to state; still, having a med card that has expired doesn’t prevent an individual from owning a gun.

When Does It Make Sense Not to Have a Med Card?

Recreational Cannabis Use

With all of this information in mind, you may be wondering—is there ever a scenario where it makes more sense to not hold a med card? Yes. Though having a med card is a great money-saving tool and a deserved privilege for those with valid medical concerns, some people may choose to use it recreationally. Those reasons include:

  • No longer having a medical concern.
  • Not having a valid medical condition that qualifies.
  • Owning or planning to own a registered firearm.
  • Not being willing to pay the fees associated with a med card.
  • Simply preferring occasional recreational use for come-and-go symptoms.

Remember that if you opt not to have a med card or to let a med card lapse for any reason, it helps to live in a metropolitan area like Phoenix, which has dispensaries that can meet the demand of recreational use. If you live in a rural area, your med card may help you access cannabis products where you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Zen Leaf Dispensaries

If you are in the Phoenix metro area and looking for the highest quality cannabis products—both recreational and medical—Zen Leaf has you covered. Zen Leaf believes in the healing properties of cannabis in various interesting and enjoyable forms, as well as their potential in improving your quality of life. We produce, source, and provide quality tested products to Arizonans and people across the US. We hope this article has helped lay out the differences between med cards and recreational purchase and use.

Ready to get your medical card in Arizona? Get started here: Arizona Cannabis Resources.

Already have your medical card? Start shopping by searching for your local cannabis dispensary here.

Marketing Coordinator at Zen Leaf. My passion for the industry grew after witnessing the power of Cannabis and all its healing properties in myself and my family. I saw my brother’s withdrawal symptoms lessen, my grandmother was able to use her hands again, my anxiety was finally manageable; I even saw Cannabis Products shrink a friends’ tumors. I stopped taking all of my SSRI medications, and I realized I wanted to be a part of whatever this was. Today I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others who are seeking the health benefits of this incredible plant.

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