As California’s marijuana community (and the rest of the country) anxiously await November 8th, and what has quite possibly become our nation’s most divisive election yet, it’s nearly our last chance to look closely at Prop 64 before deciding as a state if we’d like to enact it.
One rarely-discussed component of the ballot initiative is Prop 64’s potential to provide retroactive relief to those who have been most harmed by the oppressive “War on Drugs” — imprisoned nonviolent drug offenders.
Prop 64 aims to legalize cannabis for any adult in California over the age of twenty-one. The law would protect an adult’s right to use, possess, and cultivate marijuana, with some caveats. Residents of legal age would be permitted to have just an ounce of flower (28.5 grams) or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis i.e. hash or oil. Individuals would also legally be allowed to grow up to six plants in their homes, though any additional plants would be subject to the state’s proposed commercial licensing and regulation system.
Our country’s long reliance on for-profit prison systems created many vacant cells that desperately needed occupants to justify spending, and strict marijuana laws did just the trick for decades. Now, as Americans begin to see the light and realize our government lied to us regarding marijuana, the laws are finally changing.
It’s only right that future generations of Americans won’t have to look over their shoulder when consuming cannabis in fear of persecution, but what about all of the people who have already had freedom snatched from their grasp because of an otherwise inconsequential weed charge?
President Barack Obama has been issuing a record-setting number of sentence commutations his last year in office, the vast majority of which are for nonviolent drug offenses. Shouldn’t we follow his lead?
Should Prop 64 get voted into law, reduced sentences and expunged records would be a dream actualized for many individuals currently serving time on misdemeanor charges that include, but not limited to, growing, possessing, or using marijuana without a valid doctor’s recommendation.
“The penalty for cultivating more than six cannabis plants will be a misdemeanor under Prop 64, but is currently a straight felony,” said Mike Donaldson, a CA-based defense attorney, on his website. “As such, individuals with a prior felony marijuana cultivation conviction will be able to petition a court for resentencing and have their conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.”
This all comes after California already voted to loosen its marijuana laws back in 2011, reducing the penalty for low-level weed crimes from a misdemeanor to a handcuff-free parking ticket-esque infraction.
This further liberation of marijuana would mark the first time the state has made an active effort to right some of the wrongs in the marijuana community. Clemency would show residents that the State of California not only recognizes past errors in locking up users of the plant but also that state officials have every intention of righting the ship.
The changes to California’s marijuana legislature would also relieve some of the constraints on the state’s court system, which is already spread thin. Currently, the Golden State spends “tens of millions” of dollars processing these petty marijuana crimes, according to a ballot summary written by LAPD Deputy Chief Steven Downing.
The pro-Prop 64 ballot summary also stated, “Currently, the courts are clogged with cases of non-violent drug offenses. By legalizing marijuana, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will alleviate pressure on the courts, but continue to allow prosecutors to charge the most serious marijuana-related offenses as felonies while reducing the penalties for minor marijuana-related offenses as set forth in the act.”
Cover Image Courtesy of The Free Thought Project