California has made the news because of what their inmates are now allowed to have within their cells. Marijuana. It’s allowed, though they’re not allowed to do anything with it. The appeals court must have really been trying to appease the masses with this new ruling.
What the Court of Appeals Decided
In the 20-page ruling from the 3rd District Court of Appeals, it was noted that voters in 2016 legalized recreational possession of cannabis in quantities of less than an ounce. There’s no exception to this ruling, so even those behind bars are allowed to have marijuana in their possession.
The decision was made on Tuesday and overturned convictions of five inmates in Sacramento County who had been found with cannabis in their cells.
A three-judge panel wrote about the ruling, citing Proposition 64. Possessing less than an ounce of cannabis in prison isn’t a felony any longer. However, smoking or ingesting cannabis is still a felony.
It’s Still an Issue
The state argued with the panel that guards may lose control over the prisons if the inmates are allowed to possess small quantities of the drug.
However, possessing marijuana will still be considered a rules violation in the prisons. This means that the punishments for having marijuana can result in having good behavior credits revoked.
Many defense attorneys feel that the ruling creates nothing but confusion. It’s illegal to take it in. It’s also illegal to use it. However, it’s not illegal to have it. This begs the question, what’s the point of making it legal to have? There’s no reason to make it legal, or is there?
Why It’s Being Allowed
The ruling, according to David Lynch, the assistant public defender, will actually prevent inmates from having their sentences increased due to simple possession. It will, ultimately, reduce overcrowding and potentially save $50,000-$75,000 a year in unnecessary costs.
Currently, Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, is reviewing the ruling. It is not out of the question of whether they will choose to appeal the decision or not.
Becerra’s office calls the court’s interpretation of the law “absurd” because it, essentially, allows controlled substances to be permitted in prison.
Much of this issue comes down to what the rights of prisoners are. Prisoners are behind bars for a reason: they broke the law. They are granted basic human rights, which are protected by the United States Constitution. However, it is important to look at what rights should and shouldn’t be granted to prisoners.
Inmates are still allowed to have properly prescribed medications because it ensures that they are getting the healthcare that they need. Medical marijuana, too, can be used if it has been prescribed and is helping with a medical condition.
However, there are a lot of things that prisoners are not allowed to have possession of, including cell phones, weapons, and certain consumables.
Prisoners have a decision to make as to how they’re going to deal with this new interpretation of the law. While it’s no longer illegal to have possession of the drug, it still goes against the rules that most prisons have. This means that they won’t have more years added to their sentence. They will, however, likely get punished for having the contraband on their person. The punishment may be to have a TV removed from their cell, lose “free” time where they are kept in their cell for up to 21 days at a time, or be given extra days in prison from their original sentence. When they get “good behavior” credits, it can also prevent them from getting out early on their sentence for good behavior.
Further, if they are in possession of it, they are more likely to use it. It provides the temptation to break the law. As soon as they consume, smoke, or inhale the cannabis that they are in possession of, they have committed a felony. This could result in having years added to their original sentence because of the nature of what they have done.
Ultimately, it’s still an early ruling. Until Becerra’s office decides whether they are going to appeal the ruling or not, it’s unclear as to whether the decision is going to stick. For most people, it doesn’t seem to be a sensible decision because it leaves the prisoners open to the ability to commit a felony at any moment. Allowing it is simply asking for trouble. Bears, blankets, and cards are for emotional support. Having possession of marijuana with the inability to use it serves absolutely no purpose.