Think that cutting down a cactus in Arizona is probably like cutting down a tree anywhere else? Think again. If you cut one down without permission, you could go to jail for up to 25 years. Clearly, this is not a mistake you want to make.
One important thing to note about this law is the wording. The maximum time you could get in jail is 25 years. This is not a mandatory term that is handed out to everyone. If you make an honest mistake, you’re far more likely to get a much lighter sentence. If the judge feels like throwing the book at you, though, you could, technically, be locked up for quite some time.
The reason this law stands is because the saguaro cactus, prevalent in Arizona, takes an incredibly long time to grow. These plants have a lifespan that is estimated to be from 150 years to 200 years if they aren’t cut down and if they have the right conditions. As such, when they are ten years old, they might still be tiny, perhaps under two inches tall.
Because of this, the state is harsh on those who cut them down. If they were harvested quickly, it could be generations before they’d be able to grow back. Any damage that is done by a human will last for the rest of that person’s life. While trees can be replanted and some will grow up again relatively quickly, the same is not true for the saguaro cactus.
As you can see, a simple mistake can be costly in Arizona. This law is often touted as strange or overly aggressive, but the authorities are serious about protecting the habitat. If you’re ever accused of something like this, make sure you know what legal defense options are available.