Marijuana Commerce

AZ Moves a Step Closer to Legal Interstate Marijuana Commerce


Arizona has become the latest state to entertain the idea of legalizing interstate marijuana commerce. Though a formal deal is a long way from getting done, Arizona would be the fourth state to do so if lawmakers can get a bill passed. They would join California, Oregon, and Washington.

Heading up the effort is Rep. Justin Wilmeth, a self-described proponent of interstate commerce. Wilmeth chairs a House Commerce Committee that approved his bill 6-4. Should the bill eventually go on to pass in the house and senate, it is likely to be signed by the governor. It would provide for immediate recognition of interstate marijuana commerce should marijuana’s federal status change accordingly.

Still Barred Under Federal Law

As a Schedule I controlled substance, marijuana is still barred under federal law. So is interstate transport of the plant and any THC products derived from it. So why would Arizona and other states pass preemptive interstate commerce laws? They are banking on the fact that federal lawmakers will eventually legalize marijuana across the board.

Wilmeth said what a lot of lawmakers are thinking when he explained that “they could legalize it next week were in 10 years. We really don’t know.” His mindset is indicative of legions of state and federal lawmakers who believe legalization is only a matter of time.

These are lawmakers who want to be ahead of the game when it happens. As soon as federal obstacles are out of the away, they want companies based in their states to be able to enter contracts with out-of-state entities for buying and selling marijuana.

A Potential Wrench in the Works

Like their counterparts in Washington, Oregon, and California, it would appear as though Arizona lawmakers are anticipating full legalization with few federal controls. But there is a possible wrench in the works: a federal law that gives all authority to regulate marijuana commerce to Washington.

In such a case, would companies in Arizona be able to do business with their counterparts in Utah? Right now, the Beehive State has one of the strictest medical cannabis laws in the country. According to, all medical cannabis used in the state must be grown and purchased there. Nothing is allowed across state borders in either direction.

However, federal legalization changes things. If Washington lawmakers legalize marijuana but still give states the authority to regulate it, things in Utah might not change. Then it would not matter if Arizona allowed interstate commerce. But if federal lawmakers wrest control away from the states entirely, then companies in the two states could do business under a federal regulatory scheme.

A Sticky Situation

The one thing we know for sure is that how marijuana is regulated in the various states creates a sticky situation. For example, Arizona and Utah really have not legalized marijuana. They cannot legalize something that is federally illegal. Instead, they have decriminalized it. Arizona has decriminalized recreational and medical use while Utah has decriminalized only medical consumption.

Decriminalization at the state level is essentially thumbing the nose at Washington. Likewise for interstate commerce bills. The three states that have already passed such bills are essentially challenging Washington’s authority to regulate interstate commerce even before legalization is achieved.

Time will ultimately tell the future of legal marijuana in this country. If Washington legalizes it, Arizona wants to be ready to facilitate interstate marijuana commerce. They are merely following the example set by California, Oregon, and Washington. I have no doubt that other states will follow in the coming months, especially if Washington moves any closer to legalization.

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