California legalized recreational cannabis upon the dawn of the New Year. But naturally, there are still several remaining questions that come on the heels of the monumental variation of drug policy. Whether it’s further hashing out zoning requirements of dispensaries or figuring out a reasonable way to test for stoned driving, lawmakers will have their hands tied for the next several months trying to properly enhance pre-existing marijuana laws. However, there is one of the most impactful questions remaining upon the inception of legal recreational pot. Will legalized marijuana erase prior weed convictions?
The ‘Burning’ Question: Will Legalized Marijuana Erase Prior Weed Convictions?
Unfortunately for prior offenders, it doesn’t look like California’s recent law change will do anything for their cause. At least, according to Loyola criminal law professor Stan Goldman.
According to Goldman, Proposition 64, the official legal document that legalized recreational bud in California, cannot be applied to retroactive cases. So, if the courts convicted you of a weed crime before January 1st, for lack of better terms, you’re SOL.
There is one silver lining, according to Goldman. There’s nothing a judge could do about a prior conviction. However, someone could cite the new law in order to get out of probation.
“Someone could theoretically walk into a judge’s courtroom and ask that judge if they would take them off probation,” Goldman said. “Because although the law doesn’t require it or mention anything about it, it just seems fair that someone not have to suffer consequences for having been convicted of something that today is no longer a crime.”
Final Hit: Will Legalized Marijuana Erase Prior Weed Convictions?
In some cases, a former ‘law-breaker’ could also successfully petition to have a prior conviction expunged from their record. However, that small feat isn’t quite ideal.
The expungement of a former crime will not wipe the conviction totally of their record. And furthermore, in some cases, prospective employers may require a full disclosure of any past incidents. Kind of a bummer, considering it’s no longer a crime.
However, Prop. 64 does allow for the re-designation of past crimes, depending on the severity. Those who have already served sentences for cannabis crimes can now petition to have the conviction redesignated to better suit current laws.
While there is still a lot of grey area in the matter, there is still hope. At least for those not fully finished with the legal process. For example, back in 2014, the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned the 2011 conviction of a woman who possessed under an ounce of pot because her case was still under review as Colorado ushered in legal recreational weed.
So essentially, the bottom line is this: If you have not received a sentence yet, you can petition to reverse or lessen your punishment. You may also do this if a judge has already sentenced you and you have served time. But what about those who are currently serving time due to pot-related crimes? Unfortunately, as of yet, there’s just not much, if anything, that can be done.
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