Although California’s landmark cannabis reform does not include sales of marijuana and similar offenses, felony arrests related to marijuana possession and use are down 74%. Proposition 64 is having a resounding effect on cannabis-related drug crimes, in fact, much like Colorado when it legalized recreational use. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, defendants facing charges and fines related to marijuana fell by 8,000.
Another aspect of Proposition 64 is what remedies are available for those with past or present low-level marijuana offenses. Persons may petition courts to expunge records, request cases get dropped, or even get sentences or felonies reduced to misdemeanor-level punishments.
There is little doubt that arrests are falling fast. Far more serious drug issues related to opioids, cocaine, heroin and spice still remain, which may subside if California’s recreational marijuana use continues pulling tax revenue.
California is Spearheading Marijuana Criminal Reform
Millions of recreational marijuana users scattered across eight states and D.C. have been able to maintain normal lives thanks to legalization, with many able to clear records and again enjoy constitutional liberties such as gun ownership. Across America, marijuana convictions mean career options are slim and social services like SNAP may be unavailable, leading to a lower quality of life. California saw the writing on the wall, and made Prop 64 both a marijuana criminal reform tool and a quid pro quo for marijuana users unfazed by taxation of cannabis.
Proposition 64 is by no means flawless. Outreach is necessary to locate persons unaware that their marijuana conviction may be expungeable, requiring more resources and research. Yet as each day passes, another round of petitions to expunge or dismiss cases is examined and approved. Other states are following this blueprint, but it is California’s ingenuity that is having such a resounding effect on criminal reform.
The initiative to decriminalize and expunge marijuana offenses was an offshoot of Proposition 47, a 2014 law that allowed non-violent drug and other felonies to be reduced or dismissed based on their own merits, along with the criminal history of the defendant seeking dismissal.
How Proposition 64 can Fight Harder Drugs Statewide
While thousands of Californians wait patiently to have records cleared, millions of Americans lack such opportunity. Will other states that permit recreational use follow suit? Politicians are finally coming around on the issue, but reform could be years away.
One area in which California stands to improve, much like other states, is how they are fighting the deadly drug crisis. Since 2000, opioid-related overdoses have killed more Americans than soldiers in WWII.
An insightful report suggests that legal marijuana alone could decimate the amount of addictive prescription drugs dished out daily. Doctors are incentivized to prescribe pain medication, leading to a growing number of patients relying solely on oxycodone, hydrocodone, and similar drugs in high doses. Once addicted, drugs like suboxone are prescribed to fight addiction, resulting in more problems than solutions.
States like Colorado and Oregon are seeing results from this theory, reducing the number of opioid prescriptions by 9% and 10%, respectively. For California to fight this deadly drug battle, a statewide ban on habit-forming medication may be necessary, or at least tighter reform on how prescriptions are passed out.
As a standalone solution, Proposition 64 could be the catalyst California needed to fight harder drugs and the crimes that come with usage. Along with reforming overcrowded prisons and introducing better rehabilitation programs, the Golden State may become the model state for drug reform.
Many still are not sure what is illegal under the recreational pot law, known as Proposition 64 or The Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016. If you have been accused of marijuana sales or other drug crimes in Los Angeles and surrounding cities, contact the Law Office of James E. Blatt.
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