California's New Pot Law Is Good News For People Previously Convicted Of Weed Crimes

A provision in Proposition 64 provides relief for people currently doing time for weed crimes.

In November of last year, California voters passed Proposition 64, The Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The law, as indicated by its nomenclature, legalizes the possession and use of cannabis for anyone over the age of 21 in California. And once lawmakers finalize a regulatory framework for distribution, transportation, and sales, a legal retail marketplace will come into being for any responsible adults hoping to procure some California chronic.

The law is considered to be progress in most industry circles and has seen mostly positive responses from the cannabis community at large. Prop 64 contains language that should have the California market becoming a more inclusive business sector for minorities and people previously affected by drug war policies. As an added bonus, those who've been charged with crimes related to marijuana in the past may catch a break very soon. 

According to KINDLAND’s resident weed lawyer, John Bussman––a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California, an expert on marijuana law, and a member of the NORML Legal Committee––the provision is good news for the latter demographic

“The ballot initiative includes specific provisions that would provide some relief for people who are currently serving sentences for activities that would have been legal (or less-harshly penalized) under the act. It also provides an opportunity for people who have completed their sentences to petition the court for a retroactive dismissal or reduction of charges. . . It reduces the penalties for a variety of marijuana-related activities. Things that had been felonies will become misdemeanors. Things that had been misdemeanors will become infractions, and some activities will become completely legal for adults (within some parameters).
“The AUMA provides that individuals who are currently serving sentences for marijuana-related crimes may petition the court for resentencing to bring their punishments into line with the newly-adopted regulations. When the court receives a petition for resentencing, a judge must approve it—unless the court determines that doing so would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.
“If a person has already completed serving a sentence for some activity that has been legalized or for some felony that has been redesignated as a misdemeanor or an infraction, he or she may petition the court to retroactively reduce or dismiss the charges accordingly. The court must presume that the applicant is eligible for the requested relief unless the DA can prove otherwise.
“A provision of the AUMA says that when a felony is retroactively reduced to a misdemeanor under the act, it shall be considered a misdemeanor 'for all purposes.' Presumably, this would immediately restore voting rights and would enable the individual to hold certain state-issued licenses.”

Indeed, the war on drugs has left a number of California communities with disproportionately high rates of felony offenders, a significant number of which are a result of marijuana-related arrests. Though according to L.A,'s ABC7, more than 2,500 reduction requests were filed through March.

As such, it seems the Prop 64 provision is representative of a golden opportunity for California to right some of these wrongs.