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Arizona Supreme Court ruling makes it harder to erase marijuana convictions, attorney says

Arizona's Proposition 207 legalized marijuana use for adults and allowed convictions for certain cannabis offenses to be expunged.

However, the Arizona Supreme Court now says prosecutors can seek appellate review of expungements. The opinion is being called a significant weakening of the voter-approved measure.

Proposition 207 lets a prosecutor object to a trial court moving to expunge a marijuana conviction and request a hearing.

But Arizona’s Supreme Court says prosecutors didn’t lose their right to appeal when voters made them part of the expungement process.

Sarah Mayhew, president-elect of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said the high court is applying an older and more general statute than Prop. 207. 

“It essentially shifts the burden to people who are seeking expungement because it creates a second bite at the evidentiary apple for the state,” she said.

Justice Bill Montgomery, who publicly opposed marijuana legalization when he was Maricopa County attorney, recused himself from the case.

Mayhew said the Supreme Court opinion issued this week makes it harder to have marijuana offenses erased.

“And what we have now is that every expungement could be subject to direct appeal,” Mayhew said.

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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.