Lawyers say forgiveness for marijuana crimes doesn’t go far enough

PHOENIX – Since Arizona County prosecutors began accepting requests from those seeking to dismiss previous marijuana possession charges, the Maricopa County prosecutor’s office has been busy.

A spokeswoman said their attorneys had prepared 5,714 petitions to strike the marijuana charges from the files of defendants in Maricopa County in recent months.

Officials say 614 of those petitions were filed on behalf of someone who asked for help through the county attorney’s website. The remaining 5,100 were proactively prepared by the county attorney’s office after reviewing the information in their case management system. These were filed based on the attorney’s knowledge of the state law change.

While this means a second chance to rebuild their lives for so many Arizonans, some advocates believe this forgiveness should be extended to others who may not meet the criteria for the delisting process, allowing small amounts of pot to be in possession at the time. of crime. Many have been accused of owning more than the amount specified in the criteria for delisting. Many believe their cases should also be considered for delisting.

Chris Martin, a Valley businessman who owns Hempful Farms, a store selling CBD and hemp products in Phoenix, was one of them. He is now working with a national advocacy group called “The Weldon Project” to help those like Martin seek pardon from their state governor and get the same second chance to rebuild their lives that others have had.

Even though Martin may have started his own business, the label of “criminal” has held him back from many things in life. Martin was arrested in 2012, just after pot was legalized for medical use in Arizona.

Martin started producing flavored chocolate bars called “Zonka Bars” to give to medical marijuana card holders who didn’t want to smoke the plant. The law requires Martin to partner with a licensed dispensary to sell his treats, but at the time, Arizona didn’t license future dispensary owners, so there aren’t any with whom to go. associate.

Martin’s business was raided by law enforcement officers and he was charged with a long list of drug crimes.

“They even went so far as to call me a gang member because I belonged to a motorcycle club in town,” Martin said.

Martin said his intention was simply to provide relief to people with various illnesses like cancer, so that they could have some other form of relief, other than the prescription drugs they had access to.

“I never intended to commit a crime, break a rule, or go to jail for a plant. I was just healing myself and the people around me with drugs that we do. knew, made us feel better, ”said Martin.

He was slapped with 15 felony charges, fined $ 2 million and up to life in prison. Since then, Martin’s story has been featured in a Netflix documentary and several TV shows.

Martin’s story also caught the attention of Weldon Angelos, a man who was sent to prison at a young age for low-level pot crime and subsequently received a presidential pardon from former President Donald Trump, after her case was highlighted by many celebrities. in the world of music.

Angelos said he was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling less than $ 1,000 in a jar before receiving his pardon. Now his mission is to help others convicted of cannabis-related offenses to be “pardoned” for their crimes.

“Prosecutors often overcharge these cases. They sometimes impose stiffer penalties on them, so there has been no consistency in how these penalties are handled at the federal and state levels. I’m not talking about dealers at the state level here. cartels, ”Angelos said. in an interview with ABC15.

The Weldon Project is now dedicated to helping fund social change for people like Martin.

“By the time he got out of prison he changed his life. He started his own business, started a non-profit organization, he is successful,” Angelos said.

In addition to Hempful Farms, Martin has also founded a nonprofit called “Coloring Books for Convicts” which strives to deliver art supplies to local jails and jails, and he is involved in a project to helping foster children who are aging out of the system, as he works to earn his own second chance at life.

“My goal is to help them stay out of prison because they are very vulnerable when they get older and when they are alone. I want to make sure they don’t go down the wrong path and get not turn to drugs or drug trafficking, ”Martine said.

Martin plans to send the documents from Gov. Doug Ducey’s office to seek his pardon this week.

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