California’s New Retail Recreational Marijuana License; Offers a Second Chance for Offenders

Image via the Los Angeles Times

On January 1st, California will begin issuing retailers a license to sell recreational marijuana. With California allowing the sale of marijuana, people convicted of marijuana drug crimes may receive a second chance. As a result of a new state law, California implemented a lesser-known provision offering violators an opportunity to clear their criminal records or a reduction in charges, including felonies and misdemeanors.

“State officials hope to reverse years of marijuana convictions that can make it difficult for people to gain meaningful employment and disproportionately affect low-income minorities,” according to the Washington Post.

“We worked to help create a legalized and regulated process to legalize marijuana,” according to Eunisses Hernandez. Therefore repairing the damages caused by the prohibition. Hernandez, a policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance noted that there have been approximately 500,000 arrests for marijuana offenses in California in the past 10 years. It estimates that there are a million people eligible for review of their convictions on their records.

Federal Law on the Sale of Recreational Marijuana

However as many advocates garner support for the legalization of recreational marijuana, the drug still remains illegal under the federal law. “The U.S. Department of Justice has issued policy guidelines to its prosecutors that have allowed regulated sales to take place.” Despite the policies, if you live in a state that legalized medical or recreational marijuana use, you are still committing a federal crime by possessing, buying or selling marijuana. Federal law still treats marijuana as a controlled substance, just like cocaine or heroin. Drug crimes are punishable by probation or serving time in a federal prison.

Damian Marley Converts A California Prison Into a Pot Farm

Photo Credit: Damian Marley at the former Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA. The former prison is the future site for a cannabis growing facility.

However, Damian Marley has a different vision. He would like to see marijuana completely legalized. In September of 2016, he finalized a deal to purchase a former prison in California. In an endeavor to create a multi-million dollar cannabis business, Damian Marley, the youngest son of Bob Marley, joined forces with Ocean Grown Extracts. They purchased a former California prison to cultivate medical marijuana for state dispensaries. Instantly the business has relieved the Central Valley town of roughly $3.3. million debt. It also will create 100 jobs and will generate an estimated million dollars in annual tax revenues for Coalinga, CA. This venture is promising, “in an economically stagnant region plagued by an ongoing, historic drought and descending oil prices, both of which have damaged the region’s traditional farming and oil industries,” according to Billboard.

“Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up,” he told Billboard. “If this [venture] helps people and it’s used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it’s a success.”

Per Billboard, “Cannabis is something that’s around Damian every day with friends, family and with his Rastafarian faith. We’ve watched people who have sacrificed their lives for it. That injustice has motivated us to be advocates as well as knowing that there are healing properties in cannabis.”

Nationwide Movement to Reduce Marijuana Charges

Even though marijuana sales spur economic growth, many lawmakers are hesitant to legalize it. Like California, there is a nationwide movement to help people with marijuana convictions. At least nine states joined the movement to reduce marijuana charges. The states hope to atone for the harsh penalties given to minorities during the war on drugs. Currently, those nine states passed laws expunging or reducing marijuana convictions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Therefore, if you have a marijuana conviction consult an attorney. For those that do not have the means to hire an attorney for expungement contact a paralegal or public defender to review your case.


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