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People struggling with substance use disorder need treatment, not punishment.

Defelonizing drug possession would reduce stigma and obstacles caused by a conviction.

Drug possession accounted for 9.6% of Arizona’s prison population in 2019 – that’s more than 4,000 people costing taxpayers $291,750.69 per day. Yet, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry’s own data shows that incarcerated folks are not getting the help that they urgently need. Of the people in prison for any crime, 78% have a moderate to intense need for substance use treatment, yet only 1.8% are receiving it. 

In many cases, a  person’s first two drug possession offenses result in probation. But even without a prison sentence, a felony conviction can dismantle someone’s life because of the collateral consequences of a felony record. This impacts a person’s ability to obtain a job, housing, and more. Now barred from essential resources, it is no surprise that the risk of reoffending increases, potentially leading to prison time.



of Arizona's Prison Population in 2019


of incarcerated people in our state

$291.7 K

taxpayer dollars a day

With overdose rates rising year after year, Arizona needs to adopt a public health approach to this crisis rather than using the same “War on Drug” scare tactics that have failed us for decades.  We must reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder. Treating possession as a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, will help us do that. 

Drug and drug paraphernalia defelonization can reduce Arizona’s staggeringly high incarceration rate and allow people suffering from substance use disorder to receive community-based treatment, reduce their risk of housing and employment insecurity, and allow them to remain with family or other support systems in their lives.

Learn more about drug defelonization 

Watch this previously recorded webinar to get an in-depth understanding of drug defelonization and why the policies that are currently in place don’t work.


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