Maricopa County to toss cases after voters OK legal pot

Maricopa County to toss cases after voters OK legal pot
Arizona was the last state to allow felony charges for simple marijuana possession. (Source: MIke Fussell, WAVE 3 News)

PHOENIX (AP) - The prosecutor’s office in Arizona’s most populous county announced Monday, Nov. 9, that all pending cases for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana will be dismissed after the state’s voters approved a legalization measure.

The announcement from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the decision would also apply to cases for possessing paraphernalia and marijuana concentrates covered by Proposition 207.

Nearly 60% of voters who cast ballot last week backed the measure eliminating all criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. The new law takes effect when election results are certified in about three weeks, but the county attorney’s office said that it would begin implementing the will of the voters immediately.

“We don’t want people getting arrested or sitting in jail on a charge that Arizona voters believe is no longer a crime,” county attorney’s spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer said.

Liewer did not have an immediate estimate for the number of people who will have their cases dismissed.

Deputy county attorneys are being instructed to prioritize dismissing cases for people who are in custody or have court dates set. Arrest warrants for people who did not show up in court will also be dismissed. People facing additional charges will still have to answer on those cases, but the marijuana charge will be dismissed.

Arizona was the last state to allow felony charges for simple marijuana possession.

The ballot measure also set up a process for legally selling marijuana. Sales by licensed retailers could start in May and people will be allowed to grow their own plants. People 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of marijuana or a smaller quantity of “concentrates” such as hashish.

Approval of the marijuana measure came four years after Arizona voters narrowly defeated a recreational pot legalization proposal. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and fellow Republicans in the Legislature had refused to change Arizona’s tough marijuana laws.

Voters in New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana also voted to make possessing recreational marijuana legal.

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