MCAO will dismiss pending marijuana charges after Prop 207 passage




High hopes

In the wake of the passage of Proposition 207, which legalizes recreational marijuana use in Arizona, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will dismiss all pending or unfiled marijuana possession cases.

Prop. 207 won’t officially become law in Arizona until the statewide canvass of the 2020 election later this month, but Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel’s administration didn’t waste any time.

“Instead of continuing to spend resources on these cases, this office will begin implementing the will of the voters immediately,” MCAO said in a press release on Monday.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk announced on Tuesday that her office will also dismiss all pending marijuana charges covered by Prop. 207.

MCAO is instructing all of its prosecutors to file motions to dismiss in cases involving charges covered by Prop. 207, with a priority focus on cases with pending court dates and with defendants who are currently jailed. The new policy won’t apply to any other felony charges that are part of those cases.

“The pending or unfiled cases are especially critical because we don’t want people continuing to be arrested or spend time in jail for something the voters of this state have determined should not be a crime,” MCAO spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer said.

And for those who have already been convicted of marijuana possession charges, MCAO will work with defense attorneys to have those convictions expunged. 

The new policy will affect about 6,000 charges, according to Liewer. Of those 6,000, about 3,500 are for cases in which bench warrants have been issues; 1,400 are for cases that are in the preliminary hearing stage, meaning prosecutors have filed cases but are waiting for a judge determine if there’s enough probable cause to move forward; and 1,000 are part of cases in which prosecutors have not yet filed charges. About 180 of those charges are in the trial phase.

Liewer emphasized that those numbers are total charges, not cases. MCAO won’t be able to determine how many individual people the new policy will affect until it reviews the charges. Many of the cases also involve other felony charges, which won’t be dismissed.

According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, there are 100 inmates in state prisons currently serving time for only marijuana possession.

Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved Prop. 207, with 60% voting in favor of the measure. 

Prop. 207 will permit adults aged 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use and up to five grams of concentrated marijuana. People will also be able to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes. People without medical marijuana cards won’t be able to legally buy marijuana at dispensaries until at least March, but any adult will be able to legally possess marijuana once the election canvass is certified on Nov. 30.

***UPDATED: This story has been updated to include the number of pending charges the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office’s new policy will affect, and to include that the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office will also dismiss pending marijuana possession charges.