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Populous Arizona County Files to Expunge Cannabis Arrest Records

Arizona has begun to move in the right direction, and is working towards resolving the War on Drugs. Cannabis-related arrest records can wreak lasting damage—thwarting job opportunities, housing or even student loan programs.

On March 7 of this year, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) issued a press release, announcing the expansion of efforts to assist the local community through expungement of cannabis arrest records, as well as a numerical milestone for the region.

MCAO had already filed more than 10,000 petitions for the exclusion of closed eligible cases involving marijuana as of this date. The majority—over 7,000 of those petitions—were filed in cases handled by the office since 2016. Representatives from the MCAO said that 500 filings were allowed per week in order to not overwhelm the court system. 

This is most likely a reaction to the expungement program’s slow start last year, but the MCAO is confident the process is refined and well underway, and that they will be able to make significant progress. 

Arizona residents with cannabis-related convictions can now have criminal records erased or cleared. These provisions can be found under Proposition 207 or the Arizona Safe and Smart Act. This process started several months ago.

The MCAO started filing proactive petitions in order to exonerate eligible persons who were previously charged, as soon as the law was implemented. The petitions were for individuals who had been convicted of cannabis-related crimes and people charged with cannabis offenses.

“I believe that the will of the voters should be implemented as efficiently as possible,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. “My office is working diligently to continue to identify those cases and assist individuals who have a right to have their records expunged under this voter approved law.”

The MCAO cited “resource limitations,” forcing them to prioritize the most recent cases. 

MCAO created a public website so that individuals could ask prosecutors about their cases. If the person is eligible, a representative from MCAO may file a petition to exonerate their conviction.  

KTAR reports that people who have been arrested for, charged with, convicted, or exonerated of cannabis-related offences can apply online to the Superior Court in order to have their records deleted. You don’t need to pay a fee for the petition.

The law allows for expungement petitions to be limited to only three offenses

  • Possessing, consuming or transporting 2.5 ounces or less of cannabis—of which not more than 12.5 grams is in the form of concentrate.
  • Possessing, transporting, cultivating or processing no more than six cannabis plants at the filer’s primary residence for personal use.
  • Possessing, using or transporting paraphernalia “related to the cultivation, manufacture, processing or consumption of cannabis.”

A court may grant an expungement request. The case file, as well the law enforcement records that relate to it will be sealed.

For updates and information, the MCAO provides the following numbers:

  • MCAO has now filed 10607 expungement cases in closed cases. These include 1,094 petitions derived from 1,340 enquiries made through the website. 
  • The office responded to around 1,186 individual petitions, whether they were submitted by themselves or through an agent.

Immediately following the certification of the election, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office filed motions to dismiss pending cases in Maricopa County affected by the new law. 

The MCAO filed proactive motions to drop or dismiss over 5,000 cannabis-related charges.