Maricopa County Attorney's Office Files to Dismiss Pending Marijuana Possession Charges

Following last Tuesday's passage of Proposition 207, which legalized marijuana in Arizona, the Maricopa County Attorney's office announced this afternoon that it intends to ask the courts to dismiss "all pending and unfiled charges of possession of marijuana and any associated paraphernalia charges" in the county.

"Instead of continuing to spend resources on these cases, this office will begin implementing the will of the voters immediately," a release from the office states.

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel was reelected Tuesday in a close race that came to a close Monday afternoon, when her opponent, Democrat Julie Gunnigle, conceded. Adel's campaign declared victory shortly thereafter. Tragically, Adel was hospitalized on Election Day with bleeding on the brain, the result of a fall at home, according to her office. She remains in serious condition.

As Adel's challenger, Gunnigle had pledged to significantly reform marijuana enforcement in the county. Adel made steps in that direction during the campaign. She announced in August that people caught with small amounts of marijuana in Maricopa County wouldn't be prosecuted if they obtained a medical marijuana card. But until today, the county's plan for marijuana enforcement post-election remained murky. Some estimates put the number of statewide marijuana cases that could be dismissed or expunged as a result of Prop 207 as high as 200,000.

"We are instructing Deputy County Attorneys to file a motion to dismiss any charge covered by Proposition 207," the MCAO release states. "If those charges make up the entirety of the charges of the case, the entire case will be dismissed. If there are other felony charges the case will remain pending, but we will file motions to dismiss the charges covered by Proposition 207."

That includes cases pending in Early Disposition Court as well as "those currently in diversion or pending trial, and those set for sentencing or probation violation hearings," according to the county. "Priority will be given to cases with court dates and those in custody. The office will also be filing motions to dismiss bench warrant cases where all the charges are covered by Proposition 207."

The change affects only cases in Maricopa County. The process will likely unfold differently throughout Arizona, depending on the county attorney in each of the state's 15 counties. Prop 207 also gives the Arizona Supreme Court the option to create rules that facilitate possession dismissals and past convictions.