Ensuring Marijuana Reform Is Effective Criminal Justice Reform

Douglas A. Berman and Alex Kreit

Executive Summary

This essay discusses how Arizona should best advance marijuana legalization so that it can significantly improve Arizona’s criminal justice system. Now that Arizona has legalized marijuana via ballot initiative, we focus on steps that Arizona policymakers and advocates who are interested in improving the criminal justice system can take to ensure that legalization best advances this goal.  We review generally the history of marijuana prohibition, its role in criminal enforcement today, and the movement to enact state legalization laws before turning our attention to Arizona’s marijuana reform history culminating now in the passage of the 2020 legalization initiative, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. We then provide recommendations for policymakers and other concerned parties about how to ensure modern marijuana reforms in Arizona (and elsewhere) can and should help build a reform infrastructure that could not only ensure record relief to redress past marijuana convictions but also address broader criminal justice issues that historically intersect with marijuana prohibition.

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Key Recommendations: