Arizona has unique laws that out-of-state, international students should know about

Out-of-state students should be informed about the laws enforced in the states they move to for school

ASU is home to a large population of international and out-of-state students, so it is essential that they are aware of Arizona laws, which may be different from the laws of their home state or country. From marijuana to plastic bags to cacti, Arizona has some distinct restrictions.

Students should be conscientious of the state laws enforced where they reside, especially when attending college in a different state. While there are federal laws that are enforced by the federal government, states have the right to enact their own set of laws.

"State laws are laws that the states adopt. Federal laws are laws that the federal government adopts," Paul Bender, professor of law at ASU's Sandra Day O'Conner School of Law, said. "Everything in the United States is subject to two governments – we are subject to Arizona law and federal law."

ASU is home to many students from California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington,  where residents are allowed to use marijuana, to some extent, for recreational purposes. However, Arizona has not yet passed laws that legalize the recreational use of marijuana and has strict laws on possession. 

“Students' home residences' laws have no application in Arizona. When you are in Arizona, you are subject to all the laws of Arizona,” Bradley Forst, director of undergraduate business law at ASU's Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, said.

There is not always a “substantial difference between the laws of Arizona and other states,” Forst said. However, students should be informed about whether Arizona's laws conflict with the ones they are accustomed to.

Hannah Peterson, an ASU freshman studying business communication, said that "if you're going to move to a state and partake in an activity, from driving to marijuana usage, you need to know the laws and rules.” 

ln Arizona, there is also a law prohibiting the ban of plastic bags. ASU students from California may be surprised by this, given the legal limitations on plastic bags for the sake of the environment in their home state, among other green initiatives that California residents are familiar with.

The state of California has banned large stores from providing temporary plastic bags to customers, with the exception that the company must charge a person 10 cents when specific conditions are met.

Highway speed limit laws may also differ from state to state, and in Arizona going above 85 mph on a freeway is considered excessive and could result in a ticket. Meanwhile, Texas has one of the highest speed limits in the country, where people can drive up to 85 mph on rural highways.

Although these laws are enforced on a state-to-state basis, the federal government dictates the legality of some bigger-picture issues. 

"There are some laws that the states can generally regulate like the speed limit on the highway, who can get married and who can't," Bender said. "Then there are other laws that the federal government can regulate like federal income tax or if you can go in the army, and bankruptcy laws." 

It is important that ASU students take Arizona laws seriously. Students come from unique and diverse backgrounds, and they must be able to adjust to and abide by Arizona legislation.

Reach the columnist at or follow @ninalplunkett on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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