Arizona prosecutors will drop hundreds of marijuana prices as soon as legalization goes into impact
PHOENIX – Top prosecutors in the vast majority of Arizona counties are dropping all possession of marijuana cases after a new voter-approved legalization bill is ratified.
An Associated Press poll of district attorneys received responses from 13 of 15 elected district attorneys, all of whom said they would either drop existing cases immediately or, in one case, suspend law enforcement and plan to drop them when Proposition 207 goes into effect. (The prosecutors were questioned in mid-November. Prop. 207 officially came into force on November 30th.)
Only prosecutors in Counties Graham and Gila did not respond to the AP investigation, despite Radio KJZZ reporting that the Gila County attorney had advised law enforcement agencies to end charges against adults for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Only about 1.2% of Arizona’s nearly 7.3 million residents live in these small counties.
The decisions mean that thousands of people facing criminal charges will have to delete these records.
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The voters made it clear: No more arrests
Prosecutors said they were dropping existing cases because the Arizonans wanted to.
“The majority of the people in the great state of Arizona have spoken on this topic, and this office will follow the law that was made by the citizens,” said Michael Whiting, Apache County’s attorney.
Some prosecutors said they are acting now because anyone previously convicted of possessing an ounce or less of marijuana will be able to petition the courts for clarification on their records when Proposition 207 goes into effect.
“I really think prosecutors are doing the right thing and doing what voters wanted them to do,” said Chad Campbell, chairman of the committee that supported the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. “And it’s a big step forward in criminal justice reform here in the state.”
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“People don’t belong in jail” for marijuana
Arizona was the only remaining state that allowed crimes for possession of small amounts of marijuana, although most prosecutors usually filed the cases as an offense and allowed defendants to participate in a drug diversion program.
“People who are nonviolent offenders caught with marijuana for personal use do not belong in jail, and voters agree,” added Campbell. “It shouldn’t be a crime anymore, as the 60% of Arizona citizens who voted for it prove.”
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Some prosecutors are already reforming
Some prosecutors have been even more lenient on marijuana cases, such as Cochise County, where District Attorney Brian McIntyre stated its policy was to allow people to get a medical marijuana card and a $ 200 contribution to a drug rehabilitation program to afford to get the case of the offense dismissed.
“The fine for this is $ 686. So if it costs $ 150 to get your card and $ 200 for the donation, that’s already a sizable passport, along with not being convicted,” McIntyre said in an interview .
McIntyre said he was dropping all existing cases and urging local law enforcement officers to immediately stop citing or arresting anyone for possession, as did the Pinal County attorney.
Prohibitionists follow the new law
Some prosecutors believe the passage of Proposition 207 was a mistake, despite saying they will follow the will of the voters.
Coconino County’s chief prosecutor William Ring said lawmakers and Ducey should have legalized marijuana because they could adjust the law if there were unexpected effects. However, since Proposition 207 was an electoral measure, it falls under part of the state constitution that prevents lawmakers from making changes to the laws approved by voters.
“I can assure you with certainty that, like in Colorado, we will not like what we did to ourselves with this proposal,” said Ring in a lengthy email response to the AP’s request.
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Maricopa County falls by nearly 6,000
Maricopa County was the first out of the gate when prosecutors announced on Nov. 9 that they would stop prosecuting marijuana. The state’s most populous county expects nearly 6,000 cases to be dropped. Pima County attorney Barbara LaWall followed.
Under the new law, people 21 and older can legally own up to 28 grams of marijuana or a lesser amount of “concentrates” such as hashish and grow their own plants. Possession of 70 grams between 1 ounce and 2.5 ounces is a minor offense with a maximum fine of $ 300.
The marijuana measure was approved four years after Arizona voters narrowly rejected a proposal to legalize recreational pots.
The Fed has to choose to move forward
Voters in New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana also voted to make marijuana possession legal this month, joining eleven other states where it was already legal.
McIntyre, the Cochise County’s attorney, said that passing such laws in some states rather than others means it is time for Congress to act. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
“The federal government has to make a decision – that’s ridiculous,” he said. “If they just acted and didn’t leave it to this patchwork framework with states and see how things go here and there and elsewhere … then people would know and we could just move forward all at once. But it doesn’t happen. “