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Arizonans With Marijuana Convictions Face Legal Hurdles As Proposition 207 Takes Effect

On Monday, Proposition 207 which allows the use of recreational marijuana, took effect following the certification of the election results by the Arizona Secretary of State.

Proposition 207 legalized sale and use of recreational marijuana for people age 21 or older but it also reclassifies possession of small amounts of marijuana by a person younger than 21 as a civil violation carrying a penalty of up to $100.

An administrative order by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said the new law doesn't spell out how courts should handle those civil violations and Brutinel said it'll take time to complete necessary changes to state laws and court rules.

His order directs courts handling young adults' civil violations to use an existing ticket and complaint form for traffic violations. He also said juvenile hearing officers can handle civil marijuana violations.

What impact will this new law have on people who were convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana?

Proposition 207 going into effect has significance for thousands of Arizonans who have a criminal record as a result of low-level marijuana offenses. 

In Arizona, the person convicted has to ask the courts to have their record expunged. In states like New York and California though, prosecutor’s offices will review records and automatically make expungements for those eligible.  

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“Unfortunately, I think that is going to prolong this process quite some time," Armentano said. "Because again, the individuals are going to have to navigate this system on their own.”

The process for facilitating expungements will begin in July 2021.

Hunter Brownstein was an intern at KJZZ from 2020 to 2021.