Arizona County embarks on cannabis arrest record expungement efforts


Arizona is migrating closer to cannabis reform. The state, which has been progressively embracing the plant’s economic potential since the passage of Proposition 207 on November 3, 2020, is working towards restoring damage caused by the so-called “War on Drugs.”

Staff from Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) are concerned about the long-lasting destruction caused by cannabis-related arrest records, e.g. impacted opportunities to attract employment, housing and/or student loans.

On March 7, the MCAO published a press release confirming expansion efforts to help expunge cannabis arrest records in the local community.

Since this time, the MCAO has filed in excess of 10,000 petitions to erase closed cases pertaining to cannabis. More than 7,000 of those petitions have been dealt with by the office since 2016. 

Cannabis expungement in Arizona: MCAO representatives limited the filings to approximately 500 per week 

The primary aim of Arizona’s cannabis record expungement effort, which is being limited to 500 weekly filings, is to prevent the court system from being overwhelmed a scenario that might otherwise ensue due to the program’s slow rollout last year.

Following the passing of the Arizona Safe and Smart Act, A.K.A. “Proposition 207”, Arizona’s residents who were previously convicted of specific types of cannabis-related convictions gained eligibility for their criminal records to be wiped clean. 

Since the new law was effectuated, the MCAO has been busy filing petitions for cannabis record expungement, including petitions for people who have completed a diversion program after committing a cannabis offense, but whose record was still tarnished with an arrest and dismissal.

“I believe that the will of the voters should be implemented as efficiently as possible,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. “My office is working diligently to continue to identify those cases and assist individuals who have a right to have their records expunged under this voter approved law.”

The MCAO noted that “resource limitations” had prompted the prioritization of recent cases. 

Public website made available for cannabis arrest case review

Not only is the MCAO taking a proactive approach to filing cannabis record expungement petitions in Arizona but also, the organization has developed a website where individuals can request a case review from prosecutors.

Eligible individuals can then proceed to the next step, which involves an MCAO representative submitting a petition to expunge their conviction.  

People who faced arrest, charges, convictions or were acquitted of cannabis offenses in the past can access the Internet to apply for record erasing with the Superior Court. Petition filing is cost-free.

Based on the law, petitions to expunge cannabis convictions in Arizona are limited to the following three offenses:

  • Possessing, transporting or using paraphernalia “related to the cultivation, manufacture, processing or consumption of cannabis.”
  • Possessing, consuming or transporting 2.5 ounces (or less) of cannabis; no more than 12.5 grams should be in concentrated form.
  • Possessing, transporting, growing or processing six cannabis plants for personal use at the petitioner’s main residence.

Since July of last year, 10,607 expungement petitions were filed by the MCAO in closed cases. Additionally, the office has replied to 1,186 petitions submitted by individuals via a lawyer or on their own accord.

Should expungement be approved by the court, case file and law enforcement records will not be disclosed to the public.