Marijuana Legalization Should Be Accompanied by Justice System Reforms

The majority of Americans now consider themselves to be “cannabis-friendly,” or at least much more tolerant of it use, whether recreational or medicinal. Sixty percent of people in the country now live in a state that has some form of legalized marijuana, and eight states – including California – plus Washington D.C. allow recreational use of the drug. And yet, in six of those eight states that allow recreational use, we still have tens of thousands of people who are serving time in state prisons for non-violent marijuana crimes.handcuff

We have a duty in states where marijuana has been legalized for recreation, to also press our leaders for justice reform for those who have been caught in the long-standing war on marijuana, a war that has very clearly failed. Here in California, we are one of just two states that have taken action on this issue. Oregon is the other.

The Drug Policy Alliance reported in 2015 that more than 6,000 people were serving time in California state prisons or jails for non-violent crimes that involved cultivation or distribution of marijuana. When Proposition 64 passed legalizing the drug for recreation, it came with the caveat that allowed those individuals to apply for early release or parole and also to have their records expunged. It’s not clear at this point how many have taken up this offer or realize that it even exists. 

Our L.A. marijuana lawyers are here to help those convicted of marijuana crimes in California to apply for this relief. We recognize that a long-standing criminal record for a drug offense can have a life-long impact on one’s future ability to secure financial aid for school, obtain a loan, to vote, maintain a professional license, get a job, find a place to live or adopt a child. It can also be a factor in certain child custody proceedings.

It’s troublesome that in so many other states where we have vast farms where marijuana is now legally grown and we have people making multi-million dollar profits that others are sitting in jail cells serving time for the exact same action. Still others are grappling with the fall-out of a felony record.

It’s illogical that while we have state laws that grant people the right to smoke and possess marijuana, government workers can still be fired for having a positive blood test or urine screen.

To this day, marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug arrests in the U.S. Worse, there is a significant racial bias in this. We have a prison population where blacks and Hispanics comprise two-thirds the total, while comprising less than 30 percent of the population. The marijuana arrest rates are astronomically higher for these groups, even though we know that usage rates are the same. Blacks are four times more likely to be arrested than whites and Hispanics three times more likely. That’s not justice.

Beyond all this, if we’re looking purely at the economics, freeing non-violent marijuana prisoners is fiscally sound policy. It doesn’t make sense to continue to house these individuals in costly prisons when they pose no long-term threat and the crimes of which they have been accused or convicted are now legal.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Marijuana legalization must include justice reform, Jan. 31, 2017, By David Dinenberg, The Hill

More Blog Entries:

Players Ask NFL to Reconsider Rules on Marijuana, Jan. 27, 2017, L.A. Marijuana Attorney Blog