Legal Weed is Coming. Some Arizona Counties Are Still Hazy on How They’ll Get It Rolled Out.

An employee at a medical marijuana dispensary, trims leaves off marijuana plants in the company's grow house. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

By Bree Burkitt

November 16, 2020

Some counties were quick to speak on the issue, while others were still trying to figure out how many people would be impacted by the details of the ballot measure.

A new law allowing for the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona will soon be in effect, but how quickly it will impact people’s lives could depend on where they live.

Arizona voted to pass Proposition 207 on Election Day, giving people 21 and older the right to possess and grow marijuana. It joins the list of 11 states that have legalized recreational marijuana. 

The ballot measure also dealt with a wide range of trailing issues ranging from how much someone can legally possess to expunging criminal records. 

Previously, those convicted of possessing up to two pounds of marijuana faced one to two years in prison and a felony conviction that would trail them for the rest of their life.

While marijuana won’t technically be legal until the election results are officially canvassed on Nov. 30, counties throughout Arizona are already reckoning with how they’ll handle.

Maricopa County

Some counties were quick to speak on the issue. Maricopa County was the first to announce that all pending cases would be dismissed shortly after 207 passed.  

MCAO spokesperson Jennifer Liewer said it would apply to any cases involving less than 1 ounce of marijuana in addition to those involving possession of paraphernalia and marijuana concentrates as covered by the proposition.

The entire case will be dropped if the only charges are related to marijuana possession. If there are other pending felony charges, only the portions covered by 207 will be dismissed. 

It’s not clear how many cases will be dismissed in the state’s most populous county. 

Yavapai County

Yavapai County quickly followed suit, announcing the week after the election that all pending charges of marijuana and paraphernalia possession would be dropped immediately. 

A spokesperson for the agency said Friday that they were still “reviewing the cases that fall within the protection of Prop 207.” 

They did not know how many cases would be dismissed. 

The news was somewhat surprising, given Yavapai County Attorney Shelia Polk’s history as an outspoken opponent of both medicinal and recreational marijuana. She shared anti-Prop 207 posts on social media multiple times in the days leading up to the election. 

Other Counties Grapple With Changes 

Most other Arizona counties haven’t taken such a proactive and public stance. But nearly every county told The Copper Courier that they would no longer prosecute cases that fall under Prop 207.

Some, like Coconino County Attorney William P. Ring said that they will not be taking any steps to dismiss cases until Gov. Doug Ducey certifies the election results on Nov. 30.

“We will abide by the election results, but we want Governor Ducey to perform his functions first before we take further actions,” Ring said.

Yuma police did publicly remind residents that, while Prop 207 did pass, weed isn’t legal just yet — and even when it is, smoking in public is still prohibited.

Most counties weren’t exactly sure how many cases would be dismissed. Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith estimated they were likely looking at a minimum of 25 cases, while Maricopa County around 6,000. Others had no idea and said it would take days or even weeks to have even a rough count. 

However, the logistics of dismissing cases poses a bit of a challenge for some of the smaller counties. 

In Cochise County, officials said they would likely have to deal with the misdemeanor marijuana possession cases as they came up when the individual appeared for a hearing as there’s not an easy way to search specific charge types in their system. 

Proposition 207 states that people arrested, charged with, adjudicated, convicted, or sentenced for possessing less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana can petition to have their records expunged. The petition will be granted unless the agency that prosecuted the crime provides “clear and convincing evidence” that the crime shouldn’t qualify.

However, each of the counties reached by The Copper Courier said they do not intend to object expungement requests.


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