Inmates at California prisons can now possess marijuana in their cells – but if they eat or smoke it they’re breaking the law
A California court of appeals has ruled that inmates are allowed to possess marijuana – but the cannot use it.
The three judge panel in Sacramento ruled that possessing the drug is ‘no longer a felony’ because of the wording of Proposition 64, that was passed in 2016.
Proposition 64, officially known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), allows adults over the age of 21 in the state to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.
In a 20-page ruling at the Third District Court of Appeals, judges stated that AUMA did not exclude prisoners.
But the court reiterated that state law does prohibit smoking or the consumption of marijuana in prison.
The three-judge panel wrote in the ruling: ‘[Under] Proposition 64, possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in prison is no longer a felony. Smoking or ingesting cannabis in prison remains a felony.”
And they pointed out that prison officials can still punish inmates for possessing marijuana as a rules violation.
Inmates caught with marijuana could have good behavior credits revoked or be sent to segregated housing, Mercury News report.
As part of the ruling, the court overturned Sacramento County convictions for five inmates who had been found with marijuana in their cells.
In a 20-page document they ruled: ‘According to the plain language of … Proposition 64, possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in prison is no longer a felony.
‘Consumption, not possession, is the act voters determined should remain criminalized if the user is in prison.
‘Smoking or ingesting cannabis in prison remains a felony.
‘A result is not absurd because the outcome may be unwise’
Previously California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office argued that the reading of the law was absurd due it allowing the possession of a controlled substance in prisons.
Becerra is reviewing the ruling but did not confirmed whether he will appeal it.
Assistant Public Defender David Lynch believed the ruling will benefit prisoners and the prisons themselves.
He said: ‘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.’
The panel rejected the state’s concern that guards could lose control over prisons if inmates were allowed to possess marijuana.
A defense attorney told Fox40: ‘It creates confusion… If it’s illegal to take it in, it’s illegal to use it but now it’s not illegal to have it.
‘It’s sort of like: what’s the point of making it not illegal to have it?’
Another attorney, Dan Horowitz of Lafeyette told Mercury News: ‘It may be legal, but you can still ban it.
‘Cellphones are legal. Pornographic images are legal. You can’t have either one in prison.’
He went onto cite the difficulties facing American law, as some states legalize recreational or medicinal use, while others firmly reject it.
‘I have a client who’s facing life in prison for allegedly shipping marijuana to Missouri, yet California inmates can have it in their prison cells. It’s insane,’ Horowitz told Fox40.
In the Third District Court of Appeals ruling, they wrote: ‘The remedy for clearly written language that achieves a dubious policy outcome is not judicial intervention but correction by the people or the Legislature,’ as reported by NPR.