What happens to people that are convicted of crimes that are no longer considered criminal in the eyes of the law? That's the question eating away at everyone in America who has ever been busted for possession, raided for growing, orw stopped and frisked. So marijuana is legal, what now? Are records expunged? Will inmates be released from jail? Every year hundreds of thousands of people are busted for marijuana-related activities. Now, it seems only right that they get the record set straight to reflect the situation in America now.
In a petition for clemency for five of such men, our very own Michael Kennedy, lawyer and director of HIGH TIMES, argued that their sentences had become "irreconcilable with our present sense of basic fairness and justice" because of changing attitudes towards harsh sentencing, and the change in "beliefs about the benefits of marijuana and its potential for harm."
This has very real and serious implications for a large group of Americans at a time when they don't need to be worrying if that time they got caught with a joint is going to affect their prospects of getting a job. Yet, unfortunately many activists are staying away from the topic in fear that it will jeopardize the already difficult situation of getting marijuana legalized in general.
BBC UK explains that "in most countries, sentences would be reduced in the light of changes to the law, but not in the US. A report by the University of San Francisco found that it was one of just 22 countries, out of 193 surveyed, that did not provide for some type of automatic relief...Todd Clear, a sentencing expert and Provost of Rutgers University in Newark, says piecemeal initiatives can help reduce arrests and sentences. But he isn't expecting deep legal change. As he puts it: 'There's not much win there for a politician.'"
Prisons are overcrowded and underfunded. We do not need to be keeping these non-violent offenders incarcerated and we don't need to be preventing honest working Americans from getting jobs by keeping their records unduly tainted.