In November 2020, Arizonians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 207. This voter initiative put an end to Arizona’s status as the state with the harshest marijuana laws. For a long time, Arizona has been the state in the U.S. (including the District of Columbia and federal law) where the first-time possession of marijuana is a felony. Given the harsh treatment of marijuana possession in the past, Prop 207 will significantly impact Arizonians. It will affect the past, current, and future convictions regarding marijuana. The fight to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Arizona has persisted for many years. Many attempts seeking the decriminalization of marijuana have failed in the past. Finally, through the ballot initiative of the people, Prop 207 was passed. Phoenix Criminal Attorney can guide you if you seek to understand Prop 207 and how it impacts your rights.
The Purpose of Prop 207
An intense debate still surrounds the purpose of Prop 207. This debate is likely to continue in the future. However, one goal of Prop 207 is clear. A person who consumes, possesses, or transports marijuana for personal use will not face a harsh felony conviction. This Proposition affects the past, current, and future marijuana convictions. Before Proposition 207, it was a Class 6 felony to possess even less than two pounds of marijuana.
A felony conviction on your record is harsh and has far-reaching implications. The potential penalties for a felony conviction include fines and imprisonment. You could lose fundamental and crucial constitutional rights after a felony conviction in Arizona. Some of the rights that you might lose following a felony conviction include:
- The right to possess a firearm or any other deadly weapon
- Right to hold public office
- Right to vote
- Right to sit in a jury
The worst thing about a felony conviction is that it stays on your record forever. The conviction never goes away and will show up on your background checks. You will have a hard time recuperating from the conviction. A felony conviction takes a toll on other areas of your life beyond the loss of your constitutional rights. You end up struggling to access necessities like employment, housing, insurance, and many others. The passage of Prop 207 will have a positive impact on all of Arizona.
From July 12, 2020, any person arrested, charged, convicted, or adjudicated for certain marijuana-related crimes will be eligible for an expungement. An expungement under Prop 207 means several things:
- It vacates the conviction or judgment.
- Expunges all your records of charges, arrest, adjudication, conviction, and sentence
- It restores all your civil rights that might have been revoked because of your conviction.
- Notifies all relevant law enforcement and prosecuting agencies about the expungement, requiring them to seal all your records
- Requires the clerk of the court to seal all the records relating to your expunged arrest, adjudication, sentence, or conviction. After sealing, no one can access the records except the convicted or the accused person.
Proposition 207 seems to give the court limited discretion regarding the award of an expungement. The court must grant you the expungement as long you meet all the requirements. All individuals eligible for expungement should petition the court before the July 12 eligibility date. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you file the petition.
It’s hard to determine the exact impact of the new law on Arizonians. However, the law will benefit Arizona as a whole. Proposition 207 will enhance access to necessities like housing and jobs. The barriers that stop people from chasing their dreams and fulfilling their potential will no longer exist. People will finally pursue goals that seemed unreachable before the passage of Proposition 207.
The Background of Prop 207
In 1996, a ballot measure first legalized the medical use of marijuana in Arizona. However, the decisions by the governor and state legislature maintained the prohibition of marijuana even for medical use. Another successful ballot initiative was conducted in 2010—the 2010 ballot initiative set forth the current medical marijuana program in Arizona.
The voter initiative, Prop 207, appeared on the November 3, 2020, Arizona general election ballot. The Proposition passed with 60% and allowed the legalization and the taxation of marijuana in the state. Arizona was among the four states that legalized the recreational use of marijuana through ballot measures in 2020. The other states that legalized marijuana use alongside Arizona includes South Dakota, New Jersey, and Montana. After the legalization of marijuana in Arizona, the first state-licensed sale of marijuana occurred on January 22, 2021. This made Arizona one of the fastest moving states from the legalization to the retail sale of marijuana in the United States’ history.
Proposition 207 is also known as the Smart and Safe Act. The Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Dispensaries Association started organizing a ballot initiative in August 2019. This was after the failed ballot initiative in November 2016. During the 2016 initiative, voters rejected the recreational use of marijuana. 51% of voters were against recreational marijuana use. The Arizona Dispensaries Association filed the application for the ballot initiative on September 26, 2019. The aim was to get the required signatures (234,645 valid signatures) from voters by July 2, 2020, the deadline for the Proposition to appear in the November 3, 2020 ballot.
By January 17, 2020, the Arizona Legislative Initiative had received a total of 150,000. The Smart and Safe Arizona sponsored it. It is highly likely that by April 2020, the initiative had exceeded the required 237,645 signatures. On July 1, 2020, the sponsors announced that they had submitted more than 420,000 signatures to the secretary of state. The Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, announced on August 10 that the initiative had made it to the 2020 ballot as Proposition 207. The initiative was passed by voters on November 3, 2020, as announced by the associated press.
Prop 207 requires the Department of Health Services to outline the rules for selling retail marijuana by June 1, 2021. Just like other retail items, marijuana will be subject to local and state sales taxes. An additional 16% excise tax was imposed on marijuana products. This tax revenue will be shared among different state government agencies. The first share of the revenue from the 16% exercise tax on marijuana will cater to the enforcement of state cannabis regulations. The remaining income will be allocated as follows:
- Community colleges – 33%,
- Police and fire departments – 31.4%,
- Highway fund – 25.4%,
- Justice fund – 10%, and
- The state attorney general for enforcement – 0.2%.
The initiative states that employers may still choose to maintain a drug-free work environment. Employers have a right to impose policies and restrict their employees of job applicants from using marijuana. The initiative also outlines that it doesn’t permit the use of marijuana in public places. The initiative makes it an offense to sell marijuana products that resemble cartoons, toys, fruit, or insects. According to the initiative, minors should not possess marijuana. The first offense of possession of marijuana by a minor is punishable by a fine not exceeding $100. The child also has to undergo mandatory drug counseling.
Reasoning Behind Proposition 207
It is common for people to make mistakes. However, people recover from these mistakes and change for the better. It would be unfair to hold someone back and prevent them from meeting their potential because they made a mistake in the past. With the former marijuana law, Arizonians did not have the chance to build back their reputation and prove that their past mistakes do not define them. The former marijuana law was oppressive. Proposition 207 incentivizes people to do their best; it gives past, current, and former offenders a chance at redemption.
Giving people who have made mistakes in the past a chance to redeem themselves is best for the state of Arizona. Legal experts recommend a more expansive expungement law in Arizona.
Proposition 207 will impact future incidents revolving around past marijuana convictions. It is essential to know your rights and how Proposition 207 affects past arrests and convictions. You will only understand your rights under Prop 207 by first understanding what Prop 207 does. Some of the crucial provisions under Proposition 207 are:
- Definition of marijuana — As used in the new law, marijuana refers to all parts of a plant, including the seeds. It also includes the compounds, the derivatives, and the resin extracted from the plant. Therefore, marijuana does not just include the leafy version of the plant. It also consists of oil, wax, and other substances derived from the plant.
- Determining the weight of marijuana — While determining the weight of the marijuana under the new law, only marijuana is considered. If you have other edibles, they will not matter because only the marijuana content counts towards the weight.
- Being Under the Influence of Marijuana — According to the new law, it is an offense to drive a vehicle, operate a boat, or fly a plane under the influence of marijuana. DUI laws could still be used to punish people who drive under the influence. However, the prosecutor can only charge you with DUI if they prove beyond reasonable doubt that you are impaired. The new law states that having marijuana in your system is not enough to warrant a DUI charge. The law enforcement officers and the prosecutors must prove that you were impaired to a certain degree before they charge you with being under the influence of marijuana.
- Your employer has a legal right to restrict your marijuana use. Marijuana could affect your ability to work efficiently.
- Arizona law prohibits persons below 21 years from possessing marijuana — If you commit the first violation and possess less than an ounce of marijuana (five grams of oil or wax), the crime is punishable by a fine of $100. A second offense is also punishable by a fine. However, a third or subsequent violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The violation is punishable by a jail time of up to 6 months. However, under Proposition 207, this violation may not attract jail time.
- The use of marijuana in a public place is illegal — This is similar to the prohibition of smoking cigarettes in a public place. You should not use marijuana in an open area or as a passenger in a vehicle. The use of marijuana in a public place is an offense punishable with a fine.
- Even after the passage of Prop 207, it is a crime to possess, cultivate, or transport more than six plants of marijuana. If two adults live in the same home, they can grow up to 12 marijuana plants. You should ensure that you lock the plants in an enclosed area like a room or closet to prevent access by minors. Your marijuana plants should not be visible to the naked eye or the public. Violation of the outlined laws is a petty offense punishable by a fine. However, a subsequent offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable with a jail time of up to one year.
- The law allows you to transport up to one ounce of marijuana to another person. If it is wax or oil, you can transport up to five grams. It is also legal to transport up to six plants of marijuana. However, it should be evident that you are not transporting the marijuana for remuneration. It is challenging to define what constitutes remuneration. Remuneration refers to the payment for services or work done. Remuneration does not include donations. You should not take anything of value in return to providing another person with marijuana.
- Under the new law, it is allowable to possess paraphernalia related to the sale, use, cultivation, transportation, and manufacture of marijuana.
- In the past, the mere smell of marijuana, both fresh and burnt, was enough to warrant a police investigation and detention. However, this is no longer the case. The smell of marijuana does not warrant an arrest or a probe. The law prohibits the police from stopping, detaining, or searching you based on the smell of marijuana. This law is essential because, in the past, the police could victimize you based on the smell of marijuana.
Proposition 207 and Prior Convictions
The provisions of Proposition 207 regarding prior convictions will take effect from July 12, 2021. If you have a previous conviction for a felony or a misdemeanor for conduct currently legal under Prop 207, you can have the conviction expunged. The expungement entails wiping away the arrest, the charges, and the sentence. Crimes that can be expunged include the possession, transportation, or use of two and a half ounces of marijuana or less or twelve and a half grams of oil or wax. If your prior conviction involved the possession, transport, and cultivation of six marijuana plants or less, you could seek an expungement. You can also seek an expungement if the crime involves using, possession, and transport of paraphernalia.
You will have to file a petition with the court while seeking an expungement. If you qualify for the expungement, the court must grant it. You are eligible for an expungement as long as your arrest, charge, conviction, and arrest meet the circumstances outlined above.
When your expungement is granted, the records of your arrest will be sealed. This means that the information regarding your arrest and conviction will not be available to any other person other than you or your representative. If your rights had been suspended in the past due to the conviction, these rights would be restored. The only time the suspended rights will not be restored is if the suspension resulted from another conviction. After the expungement and the sealing of the conviction, you can boldly state that you have never been arrested for the said offense.
If you have pending marijuana-related offenses, the passage of Prop 207 could lead to the dismissal of the pending cases with prejudice.
It is not clear how past convictions used to enhance later convictions will be handled after Prop 207.
The expungement law will become more complicated if you have a past conviction or an open case. Expungement could lead to more lenient sentencing even if you were convicted of another crime in addition to the possession of marijuana. It is essential to consult an experienced attorney about your rights under the new law. Every time a new law takes effect, its implementation is often complicated. Only a skilled attorney can help you understand how the new law will affect you, especially if you have a previous marijuana-related conviction or are currently facing a marijuana-related charge.
Find a Phoenix Criminal Lawyer Near Me
The passage of Prop 207 made significant changes to Arizona’s marijuana laws by making it legal for adults to possess more than one ounce of marijuana (28 g) of marijuana but not more than 2.5 ounces (71 g) of marijuana. If you have a previous conviction revolving around possession of marijuana, an attorney can help you seek an expungement of the charges. At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, we will guide you through the expungement process and help you understand your rights under Prop 207. Contact us at 602-551-8092 and speak to one of our attorneys.