- Rep. Paul Mosley becomes main sponsor of marijuana bill
Proposed bill will reduce possession of 3.5 grams of marijuana or less from a felony to a misdemeanor
Criminal justice reform group sponsors first House bill
Already seeing strong bipartisan support
Would reduce potential felony charges and stigmatization for many Arizonans
Arizona is the last state in the union to reduce marijuana charges from felony to misdemeanor
On February 5th, 2018, the Criminal Justice Reform Study Group sponsored their first bill. This legislation would reduce possession of 3.5 grams of marijuana or below from a felony to a misdemeanor.
While the bill has yet to be assigned to a committee, it has already received positive feedback and support from both major parties.
Rep. Paul Mosley (R- District 5) is the main sponsor, but Rep. David Stringer (R- District 1) and Rep. Kirsten Engel (D- District 10) are among other major proponents of this bill. They have obtained 36 co-sponsors, including 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans, to support it.
Arizona has some of the strictest drug laws in the country, specifically for marijuana. It is also the last state in the country to bring the possession of any amount of marijuana down from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“If someone gets arrested and charged with a felony, that might preclude them from getting jobs in the future or elevating themselves in some way,” Rep. Mosley said. “If you’re charged with a class 1 misdemeanor, it’s not going to stop you from gaining job opportunities or ruin your life.”
One of the main reasons that this bill has been drafted is to lower the risk of prior convictions being used as enhancements for future offenses. Misdemeanors are typically not used as enhancements, so those who have been caught possessing marijuana may not be subjected to more serious punishments for a potential second offense.
“The point is to give a slap on the wrist to somebody who’s a first time offender, and hopefully wake them up to the fact that it’s still illegal and help them become a productive member of society,” Rep. Mosley said.
Proponents of the bill believe that it is crucial to the beginning of modernizing state drug laws. Several representatives are hopeful that this bill can be used to spark new legislation in order to streamline Arizona drug laws to match the rest of the country’s progress.
Over the past few years, Arizona has seen an increase in the demand for updated drug laws. Many people believe that the laws are too strict, outdated, and do nothing substantial to help recovering addicts.
Bipartisan support for the bill has shined a light on the importance of reform.
“One of the benefits of the bill is to shield Arizona residents from the stigma that comes with possessing very small amounts of marijuana,” Rep. David Stringer said. “This bill will also spare Arizona defendants or marijuana arrestees from a felony conviction.”
While the bill might not serve as a catalyst for legalization, it does spark a conversation about the damage that a felony conviction can do to a person. If this bill is passed, it may provide people with the opportunity to have a second chance.