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Possession of Marijuana No Longer a Felony Offense for California Inmates

July 5, 2019

While possession is legal for inmates, consuming it is not.

Possession of Marijuana No Longer a Felony Offense for California Inmates

In California, the possession of marijuana for recreational purposes has been legal since 2016, when Proposition 64 was passed by voters.  Yet for inmates in California’s penal system, possessing any quantity of marijuana is a felony offense, punishable by an additional 8 years in of incarceration.

As a drug defense lawyer Los Angeles, CA can explain, all of this changed in June, when California’s 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento held that possession of marijuana inside of prison or other penal institutions was not a felony offense.  In the case, The People v. Goldy Raybon , the Court overturned the convictions of five inmates who had been sentenced to additional prison time because they had been found guilty of possessing marijuana inside of a California prison.

According to the panel of three justices, “The plain language of Proposition 64 is clear….possession of less than one ounce of cannabis in prison or a similar penal institution is not a felony.”  In essence, because possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal outside of prison, the same must hold true inside of prison.

However, according to an experienced drug defense lawyer Los Angeles, CA, there is a significant difference between legal marijuana inside and outside of a penal institution.  Californians who are not incarcerated are permitted to smoke or otherwise ingest marijuana (with some exceptions, such as for minors).  Inmates cannot smoke or ingest marijuana in the prison system.

The Court concluded that prison authorities could still ban the possession of marijuana as a way of maintaining order and safety within the system.  It simply cannot be a criminal offense to merely possess marijuana under this new ruling.

It is unclear how this new ruling will be applied by the California Department of Corrections, or how prosecutors will handle situations where inmates are found to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana, but there is no evidence that they have smoked or ingested it. Under current law, only smoking and ingesting cannabis is prohibited in prison.  Other methods of using cannabis may still be legal under this law, according to the Court.

The law regarding the possession and use of marijuana in California continues to evolve.  With this recent ruling, a new referendum, prison policy and/or proposed law to address the use of marijuana in prison may be introduced.  Anyone who is currently incarcerated or who has a loved one in the California penal system should be aware that the law and/or policy regarding marijuana possession in prison may change again.  If you have questions about current law, a seasoned drug defense lawyer Los Angeles, CA can counsel you on the best course of action.

The Chambers Law Firm represents clients throughout Southern California who have been charged with a variety of crimes, including those related to drug use, possession, and sale.  We have significant experience handling these cases at all levels of the criminal justice system, and are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for our clients.  Contact our firm today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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