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AZ health officials have awarded 1st round of grants paid for with marijuana revenue

A 2020 ballot measure that legalized marijuana for adults in Arizona also ordered the state to continuously spend some cannabis money on justice reinvestment.

State health officials gave out the first round of these grants to nearly 20 nonprofits in December.

One grant recipient cares for babies exposed to drugs.

Another helps would-be dropouts graduate high school with skills to get a job.

The mission of a group called Constructing Circles of Peace in Santa Cruz County is restorative justice.

“So it's really seeking to repair harm that's done instead of a punitive approach to crime,” said Eva Zuniga, program director.

Constructing Circles of Peace is getting $500,000 from the state over five years.

Zuniga said pretrial services the group provides go beyond making sure a criminal defendant obeys the terms of their release.

“So that they can receive additional mental health services (and) family services. Get their light bill paid.”

State treasury records show the justice reinvestment fund received nearly $26 million as of last June.

State health officials have told nonprofits that more grant money will soon be available.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.