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Prop 200 was a referendum that was passed by the voters many years ago, and it has to do with what we call three strikes and you are out. For simple possession, meaning not for sale and certainly not having to do with methamphetamines, regardless of the class of felony that it is, if you qualify and you fit, then on the first strike (meaning the first charge) if you enter a plea under the provisions of Prop 200 you can be sentenced to probation only. Now, if you violate probation you can go to jail, but you cannot be given any jail or prison time regardless of the class of felony that it is. On a second strike, meaning that if you get another, you still can’t go to prison, but you can go to the county jail for up to a year.
Of course on the third strike if you do get a third strike, now you’re looking at mandatory prison unless it’s negotiated out by your lawyer, but technically speaking that is mandatory prison. Three strikes, you’re out. In Maricopa County we also have a program called TASC, and that is an acronym, and it basically is a first time diversion program. So if someone gets a possession, for example, of marijuana charge and they want to not even take advantage of Prop 200, they can go through a diversion program, that TASC program. The TASC program is expensive depending upon the class of drugs. It starts anywhere from $1,000 and goes up to over $2,000.
There is some education involved in it, but then there’s random urinalysis that you have to take on top of that every week or days depending, it’s random, and you have to test clean for a minimum of a year and if you don’t you wash out of TASC, meaning the charges come back, they’re reinstated, and now we get into the Prop 200 type of protocol.
With methamphetamines, that has by statute been specifically taken out of the Prop 200 consideration, and for whatever reason in Arizona, methamphetamines seems to be the bad drug, and so you don’t get a do-over, you don’t get a second chance. Technically speaking on methamphetamine possession, you’re supposed to go to prison on a first offense because it is a middle-grade felony. Sometimes we are able to negotiate that out to a different charge such as a possession of paraphernalia charge or something that would be Prop 200 eligible. For people who don’t understand this and just walk into court and plead guilty, they’re going to go to prison on a meth charge.
We can talk about this a little bit more later as it applies to the DUI situation, but Arizona is a medical marijuana act state (MMA). Many states have medical marijuana provisions in the law. Again, this was passed by a referendum, not the legislature. The legislature didn’t want it, but we have it. Also, there was another referendum that went through the last general election in November of 2016 to legalize recreational use of marijuana. That didn’t pass, but it didn’t fail by very much, and probably in the next 4 years we will see Arizona joining the ranks of Colorado, and Washington, and to some extent California, where the recreational marijuana will be regulated and not illegal.
There are always going to be problems with it because even with medical marijuana the rules are very strict on how much you can possess. You have to be able to trace it back that you purchased it from a dispensary. Just because you have a card, doesn’t mean you can go out to your local drug dealer and score some weed and be exempt from being prosecuted. So that, of course, is one big problem.
But there is one other problem, and everybody brings it up. It doesn’t matter whether the state has a medical marijuana or recreational marijuana law. It’s still a federal offense, and although during the Obama administration it was made very clear that there would be no federal intervention, we don’t know now, with the new administration, what’s going to happen and how that’s going to be handled by the Department of Justice. So you always are going to have this struggle between the state authority versus the federal authority, which is still a very open question in this state and every other state, until we get a better feel for this current administration and how they’re going to react to it.
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