Event scheduled to help those with marijuana convictions

Tom Reardon

Filling out the forms is the easiest part of taking the first step towards the expungement of marijuana convictions.Getty Images

By Tom Reardon / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

Peoria, Arizona, will host a Marijuana Expungement & Rights Restoration Clinic on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, at the Citadel of Praise Christian Church (8738 W. Cholla, Peoria, AZ) from 4:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

The clinic will allow those individuals with applicable marijuana convictions to speak to qualified attorneys about getting their marijuana-related records expunged and the restoration of rights. This information and assistance are provided free of charge through the Reclaim Your Future program.

Funding for this program was created when Proposition 207 was passed in 2020. Known as the “Smart and Safe Act,” Proposition 207 not only legalized marijuana for recreational use in Arizona, but it also provided an avenue for the first expungement law in Arizona history.

There are criteria for expungement to be possible under this law. Individuals convicted of possessing, using, or transporting less than two and a half ounces of marijuana are eligible for expungement. In addition, Proposition 207 also made convictions for the cultivation of up to six plants at the person’s primary residence, as long as it was for personal use, expungable, and convictions for possessing marijuana paraphernalia used for cultivation and consumption.

Reclaim Your Future is part of a coalition of agencies around Arizona dedicated to helping those who are have been convicted of the applicable offenses through advocacy and legal advice.

“This is a coalition of seven different organizations, whether it's advocacy organizations and, more importantly for our purposes here, free legal services across the state from Northern Arizona to the valley to southern Arizona. We have all these organizations fanned out across the state who are contributing to this effort to seal these records to expunge these convictions and arrest records so that folks can move on. The state of Arizona funds the Coalition by the Arizona Department of Health Services. These resources are there, and folks need to take advantage of them,” says Joe Watson, media coordinator for the Reclaim Your Future program.

According to Reclaim Your Future’s website, “Expungement is the legal process for sealing convictions and arrests from the public record. When a court grants your expungement, the court orders law enforcement and all relevant court personnel to remove information about the expunged conviction or arrest from your record."

For many convicted felons, there is a significant impact on their lives when applying for employment or being approved for housing. If expungement is granted, it also means that there is no record of the conviction when background checks are conducted on individuals who had previous marijuana convictions.

“It is a huge hurdle to somebody's own self-esteem, to their own sense of autonomy and freedom every time they have to check that box indicating a prior felony conviction or an arrest record of some sort. It really discourages folks from pursuing things that they really want to pursue. Having your conviction history or your arrest record sealed if you know if you have that related to marijuana will allow you more autonomy and more freedom, more opportunity to pursue the things that you want to do,” says Watson.

This process is not automatic, but legal counsel on hand at the Peoria event can help individuals fill out the necessary paperwork to begin the process. Once forms are submitted to the Superior or City courts in the county where the crime was committed, the Court can determine if the application will be approved.

“We really need to communicate to folks that this can be done quickly and simply, and it's free, and they should do it to create greater autonomy for themselves. And, you know, greater free movement throughout the rest of their lives and leave (their conviction) behind,” says Watson.

For more information on the Reclaim Your Future program, please visit their website at: https://azexpunge.org/about/

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Tom Reardon is a Phoenix native and has been writing about events in and around Arizona for the last decade.

Phoenix, AZ

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