Now that California has made marijuana fully legal, there are some reports starting to trickle down the press pipe that suggest pot-related offenses are already being essentially laughed out of court – even for those offenders who were quite obviously preparing to sling the herb on the black market.
On Tuesday, Southern California Public Radio (KPCC) published a conversation with a local attorney which suggested that with the passing of Proposition 64, an initiative that legalized the cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana, many courts have already begun to disregard the majority of pot-related cases. In fact, this appears to be the situation, even when the charges involve transgressions that were once considered a felonious offense.
“I was in court today [Nov. 10] where a guy had a possession for sale of 35 pounds,” cannabis lawyer Bruce Margolin told KPCC. “They wanted to give him a year in jail and three years felony probation. Today, he walked out with a misdemeanor 60 days, with half time.”
Although the language of Prop. 64 did not free the leaf entirely—possession of over 28.5 grams of weed is punishable with up to six months in jail and fines reaching $500—there are some details of the new law that will prove beneficial for pot cases, both past and future. One of the biggest is a provision that gives people convicted of pot-related crimes, even those with a prison stint under their belts, the right to have their criminal records tweaked to represent the current state of affairs.
This means people with felony pot convictions can now petition the courts to have their records amended to a misdemeanor. And in a roundabout way, it also implies that drug traffickers must now only risk a few months behind bars for transporting “any amount” of marijuana.
“People with possession for sale, possession with the intent to sell, transportation or giving away more than an ounce, or sale of cannabis, would normally face prison time from three to four years,” Margolin said. “However, now it’s been reduced to six months in jail, maximum, and a $500 fine, or both.”
This is great news for those people who plan to continue transporting metric shit tons of pot all across the Golden State, but not so much for the average citizen caught in possession of a small amount of weed.
As Margolin points out, there are now some cases in the court system involving the possession of “50 pounds of marijuana” that are being treated as a misdemeanor instead of a felony, but what he failed to explain is that the same penalties could be handed down to a person caught in possession of just over an ounce. The law says, for example, if you get popped carrying two ounces of marijuana, you could be punished the same as a person caught holding 50 pounds or more.
Yet marijuana possession charges typically diminish in states that have legalized marijuana.
In Colorado, possession cases went from nearly 9,000 in 2010 to 1,922 in 2014. We only hope that California’s new pot law does not lead to the continuation of small-time pot offenders being locked away in jail. As magnificent as Prop. 64 will be for the state’s workforce and overall economy, it would be a crime, in and of itself, to forge ahead with the incarceration of those people found in possession of a personal stash of weed.
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