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On November 8, 2016, you will have the chance to dramatically change marijuana legislation by voting on Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana in California for adults age 21 and older.  Our Ventura drug crime lawyers explain how Prop 64 could affect California’s justice system, its economy, and the thousands of prisoners who are currently serving time for marijuana-related offenses.

How Will California Marijuana Prisoners Be Affected if Proposition 64 Passes?

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According to a report by the Office of the Attorney General, there were 44,629 arrests for felony drug crimes in California last year.  Nearly 20% of those arrests – a total of 8,866 – were specifically related to marijuana, which remains a Schedule I drug under federal law despite its legalization or decriminalization for medical and/or recreational purposes in certain states.

In addition to the nearly 9,000 arrests made in 2015 for marijuana felonies, another 6,267 people were arrested for marijuana misdemeanors.  In total, that’s over 15,130 marijuana arrests in a single year – many unfairly targeting black and Hispanic individuals.
Some California marijuana offenders are placed on probation, but many others are sentenced to jail or prison after being convicted.  So what will happen to these inmates if Prop 64, which would legalize marijuana, passes on November 8?

In short, it’s good news.

Prop 64 – which is also being called the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act – will apply retroactively if the proposition passes.  That means inmates who are currently incarcerated for marijuana offenses could have their sentences shortened, or in some cases, even be released.

But it isn’t only current inmates who could be positively affected by the proposition.  In addition to the roughly 6,000 inmates whose sentences could be shortened or terminated, approximately one million others would gain the opportunity to petition for their criminal records to be cleared of prior marijuana-related felonies or misdemeanors, according to estimates by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which is providing funding for Prop 64.

Proponents say the measure will decongest California’s prison system, lighten the burden on law enforcement, and help reduce the impact of racial profiling and discrimination.

“It’s almost always white people who say that law enforcement leaves us alone when it comes to drugs,” said Lynne Lyman, director of the California DPA, “and especially when it comes to marijuana.”
Californians may also reap economic benefits from Prop 64, which would:

  • Place a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales.
  • Put money into the California Marijuana Tax Fund, which would be used to help fund law enforcement, create substance abuse programs, and protect the environment.
  • Create jobs by legalizing the production of industrial hemp, which contains virtually no THC and is used as a raw material in products like fuel, ink, insulation, mulch, cardboard, and concrete.

Will it Be Legal to Smoke Marijuana in Public? What About Driving While Intoxicated?

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While Prop 64 will eliminate many criminal penalties, certain acts involving marijuana will remain illegal.  Even if Prop 64 passes on Tuesday, it will remain illegal to:

  • Use marijuana in a public place, such as a park, school, city street, movie theatre, office building, restaurant, bar, bus stop, or grocery store.  
    • In California, the possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is generally an infraction, unless such possession occurs on school property.  You will not be incarcerated for an infraction, but may be fined.  Marijuana possession on school grounds, or the possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, is currently a misdemeanor.  Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute is a felony.
  • Drive while under the influence of marijuana, which can lead you to be charged with DUI or, if someone is killed, vehicular manslaughter.  
    • If you or a loved one is ever charged with intoxicated driving in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, our Santa Barbara DUI lawyers or Ventura DUI lawyers may be able to help.  If a family member has been charged with manslaughter or vehicular homicide, it is vital for you to contact our Ventura manslaughter lawyers immediately for legal assistance.

Ventura County Drug Possession Lawyers Handling Misdemeanor and Felony Cases

If one of your family members or loved ones is in jail or prison for a marijuana-related offense, he or she could be freed, or be released earlier than anticipated, if Prop 64 passes.  However, keep in mind that Prop 64 affects only marijuana offenses, and does not make any changes to California’s legislation regarding cocaine, heroin, MDMA (ecstasy), LSD (acid), methamphetamine, or other controlled substances.

Regardless of Prop 64’s fate, skilled legal counsel from a knowledgeable defense attorney is essential if you or someone you love has been arrested for a drug offense in California.  If you were charged with drug possession or other crimes involving narcotics, such as the sale, trafficking, or manufacture of controlled substances, you could be facing extremely serious penalties.  To speak confidentially in a free consultation with an experienced Ventura criminal defense lawyer in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 585-5056.

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