Prospective Top Prosecutors Favor No Charging For Pot Possession

misdemeanor pot possessionWe are not going to get into politics beyond pointing out some of the policies being proposed, particularly here in Arizona. Recently, all three Democratic hopefuls for the Maricopa County Attorney position took a stand on marijuana possession cases – they said they would not prosecute them. All of the candidates also said they would stop using these charges as sentencing enhancers on other cases.

The Maricopa County Attorney is the office that handles prosecutions for the largest court jurisdiction in the state. If the top prosecutor there decides they will no longer charge for simple possession, that is a big deal that could influence other jurisdictions in Arizona. As of this writing, no Republican candidates have filed to run for the four-year term position.

What has Maricopa County been doing?

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has been filing these charges. For 2015 and 2016, they filed around 5,000 marijuana possession charges. That makes up about 15% of the total drug offenses for the county.

What are the consequences of possessing marijuana in Arizona?

Possession of any marijuana outside of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) approvals is a felony in this state. As most of you know, the state passed the AMMA in 2010 and allows for people to go through their doctors to get approval for an MMJ card. Even with this card, people still must buy marijuana from a legal dispensary or grow their own if they do not live near a dispensary.

Anyone else caught with marijuana can find themselves in serious trouble. A person charged with possession of marijuana in Arizona (which means less than two pounds) will be charged with a class 6 felony. This can lead to:

  • 6 months – 1.5 years jail time
  • Up to $150,000 fine

Who is impacted the most by these charges?

The candidates pointed out many issues with possession charges, including the enormous cost of prosecuting these cases and then carrying out the sentences. One of the candidates emphasized that African Americans are much more likely to be convicted of marijuana possession charges despite using the drug are similar rates as while people.

One of the major issues of concern for pot charges is the Treatment Assessment Screening Center (TASC). This is a private firm in Maricopa County that provides treatment to offenders as a way to avoid a felony conviction. TASC is the subject of a federal lawsuit that claims their fees are so high that they create a “two-tiered” legal system – one in which the wealthy get no charges while the poor get slammed with felonies.

Click here for an article about how prosecutor candidates would not charge pot possession in Arizona.

https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/prosecutor-hopefuls-wouldnt-charge-low-level-pot-crimes-11328238

What about levels over two pounds?

Even if one of the three Democrats is elected to office, they will likely still continue to charge anyone found with more than two pounds of marijuana. As the amounts increase, so do the consequences.

Anyone found with 2-4 pounds of marijuana faces a class five felony:

  • 9 months – 2 years jail/prison time
  • Up to $150,000 fine

Anyone found with more than 4 pounds of marijuana faces a class four felony:

  • 5 – 3 years prison
  • Up to $150,000 fine

The penalties grow harsher for anyone found cultivating marijuana with the intention of selling it. All of these penalties, including the ones for possession, should serve as a reminder that anyone without an MMJ card with marijuana can face penalties if they are caught.

Let us get to work for you today

If you or a loved one are facing marijuana charges, please seek assistance from an Arizona criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. There is too much at stake to do this by yourself.

Click here for information on statute of limitations Arizona.