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Marijuana and Prop 64--I'ts about time

Your felony drug conviction for growing marijuana prevents you from landing a good job or has erected a road-block to qualifying for a state professional license.  It may even have cancelled your eligibility to receive Federal student aid. 

Fear not.  California voters approved Prop. 64 this past November 8—the law known as the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (“AUMA”).  The AUMA reforms a broad range of marijuana related activity and will likely resurrect many lives previously ruined by a felony or misdemeanor conviction.  How many lives are we talking about?  There were a whopping half a million marijuana arrests in California between 2006 and 2015  (California Department of Justice).  Many of these folks will benefit.

Under the AUMA, that cultivation felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor (or, in some instances dismissed altogether).   This won’t happen automatically.  The affected person must first file an application with the court.  The application will likely be granted subject to certain limited exceptions (involving, for example, past serious felony convictions and public safety risks).  There is no window of time to file.    

Besides cultivation the same would apply to the crimes of possession with intent to sell and sales of marijuana (the AUMA does not affect other types of drugs and their respective offenses). 

The AUMA does not affect California’s medical marijuana law, Prop. 215, enacted in 1996, that permits qualified patients to receive physician recommendations to use marijuana for a wide range of ailments.  The AUMA leaves the medical marijuana protections completely intact and focuses instead on marijuana activity apart from medicinal uses—commonly known as “recreational” marijuana use. 

The AUMA goes further than the 2011 decriminalization effort for the possession of small amounts of marijuana (a fine only infraction). The AUMA establishes a Colorado/Washington type licensing/distribution system that will likely be up and running later.  But there are concrete and immediate changes that benefit many Californians today.

The following marijuana related activity, illegal Nov. 7, 2016, is completely legal today (for those at least 21 yrs.):

--Possessing, processing, transportation, purchasing, or giving away to adults (without compensation) less than one ounce (28.5g) of marijuana (H&S11362.1 (a)(1))

--Possessing, processing, transportation, purchasing, obtaining, or giving away to adults (without compensation) less than eight grams of concentrated cannabis (aka hashish—H&S11362.1(a)(2))

--Possessing, planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, or processing six marijuana plants or fewer if the planting is within a gated area and not within public view.

--Smoking or ingesting marijuana or marijuana products (but not in a public place or a place where smoking tobacco is prohibited)

--Possessing, transporting and giving away to adults, without compensation, any marijuana accessories.

Persons previously convicted of the above now legal marijuana activity may now use the application process for dismissal, sealing and destruction of those records. 

The AUMA also substantially reduces criminal consequences from what was not lawful Nov. 6 (for adults) for the following:

--felonious possession of any marijuana for sale is now a misdemeanor

--felonious sale of any marijuana is now a misdemeanor (remains a felony if sale is to a minor)

--felonious cultivation of more than six plants is now a misdemeanor (and possibly remains a felony depending on priors)

Under the AUMA, the following marijuana activity is not legal:

--smoking (or otherwise ingesting) in public (fine only infraction)

--smoking near an in session grade school (higher fine only infraction)

--possessing an open packet of marijuana in a moving car (higher fine only infraction)

--smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving (or riding in) a motor vehicle, boat, aircraft, or other vehicle used for transportation (higher fine only infraction)

--driving under the influence of marijuana (misdemeanor)

There are different rules in place when the person is under 21 and even more for those under 18 (upon commission of the offense).  There is also a push and pull between the federal and state government’s marijuana policy.  Those topics will be addressed in a future article.  For now, drug offense convictions (including marijuana) will trigger a one-year driver’s license suspension for those persons under aged 21.  Certain “critical need” restrictions may apply but it’s probably best for that age group to not be convicted of such crimes in the first place.

In sum, the new law provides a great deal to Californians and is a welcome policy upgrade.  It’s about time.

 

 

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