Jonathan Udell, Rose Law Group cannabis department co-chair, talks to The Arizona Republic about pardons for federal marijuana possession convictions

By Chelsea Curtis | Arizona Republic

Arizona could be among the states that benefit most from President Joe Biden’s pardons of more than 6,500 people who were convicted in federal court of simple marijuana possession charges, according to federal sentencing data.

A little more than 1,450 people in Arizona were federally convicted of at least one count of simple possession of marijuana between 1992 and 2021, an analysis from the United States Sentencing Commission showed.

It was the second highest number of convictions in the country, just behind California, with 1,550. Texas was the only other state with more than 1,000 such convictions.

It’s unclear how many of those convictions included other offenses not covered under the mass pardons. Still, Arizona also had the highest number of citizens with simple possession of marijuana convictions of any state since 2015, data from the Commission showed. Some 93% of the state’s 500 convictions during that time resulted in prison sentences.

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“For a lot of people out there, I imagine this is a really welcome relief,” said Jonathan Udell, an attorney with the Rose Law Group and acting co-director of Arizona NORML.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there that really feel the sting of being branded a non-law-abiding citizen,” he continued. “And this sends a very big message to those people that you’re not a bad person because you smoked a plant one time that grew out of the ground or possessed some grass in your pocket.”

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