Prop 205 would mean a slap on the wrist for underage marijuana use

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Law enforcement officials are warning that Arizona's ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana is too lenient on kids who are caught trying to buy pot.

"We would be sending the wrong message to youth," said Bill Montgomery, who is the Maricopa County Attorney.

Under Proposition 205, people under the age of 21 who are caught trying to purchase marijuana would be charged with a petty offense, with a maximum fine of $300, and the possibility of community service.

But under current law, if someone under the age of 21 is caught trying to buy alcohol, that person would be charged with a criminal misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $2,500 and the possibility of a jail sentence.

Montgomery says minors are generally not subject to the maximum fine or sentence. They are offered a diversion program. He says the threat of a more severe sentence gives minors an incentive to stay straight. But a petty offense is more like a parking ticket.

"The maximum fine that can be imposed is $300 and multiple petty offenses mean nothing," said Montgomery.

[RELATED: Recreational marijuana: Question and answer guide to Prop. 205]

CBS 5 Investigates reached out to one of the attorneys who helped draft Prop 205.

"Why would we want to strap a kid with a criminal record with life-altering consequences such as a jail sentence of up to six months, probation for up to three years, and a fine of up to $2,500 (plus fees and associated costs of going through the process) for making a mistake with a substance that is less harmful than alcohol?" wrote Ryan Hurley in an email sent to CBS 5 News.

[RELATED: Fact check: Marijuana tax claim a puff of smoke in Prop 205 ad]

Copyright 2016 CBS 5 News (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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