A California appeals court says pot is totally fine in prison as long as inmates don’t inhale it.
Back in 2016, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that California voters have legalized the recreational possession of less than an ounce of cannabis, even if you’re a prisoner. However, the law does ban smoking weed in prison, inmates can also be punished for having marijuana. “According to the plain language of … Proposition 64, possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in prison is no longer a felony,” the court ruled Tuesday. “Smoking or ingesting cannabis in prison remains a felony.”
ABC 7 reports, the court overturned the convictions of five inmates in Sacramento County who were found with marijuana in their prison cells. “The voters made quite clear their intention to avoid spending state and county funds prosecuting possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and quite clear that they did not want to see adults suffer criminal convictions for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana,” Sacramento County Assistant Public Defender Leonard Tauman said in an email. The appeals court “quite properly honored what the electorate passed.”
Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said it is reviewing the ruling and but has not revealed if he will repeal the law. “We want to be clear that drug use and sales within state prisons remains prohibited,” said corrections department spokeswoman Vicky Waters. She said the department “is committed to providing a safe, accountable environment for prisoners and staff alike and we plan to evaluate this decision with an eye toward maintaining health and security within our institutions.”
The state argued that guards would lose control over prisons if inmates are allowed to possess marijuana, but a three-judge panel rejected that statement, mentioning that prisoners can still be punished if they have weed. However, if they violate the rules, they will receive other penalties other than having years added to their terms. “This ruling will prevent inmates from having years added to their sentences for simple possession, reducing overcrowding and saving $50,000-75,000 a year in unnecessary costs,” said Assistant Public Defender David Lynch.