Changing Times and Changing Laws
Over the years, the legal status of marijuana across the nation has changed. As we grow more tolerant, better understand how marijuana affects the body, recognize the detrimental effects from incarcerating marijuana users, and learn about how revenue can be generated from the legal sale of marijuana, more and more states are legalizing recreational use. California, not surprisingly, is no exception.
California's marijuana laws have undergone significant change over the years. Most recently, a proposition was passed that will forever change California's marijuana-use landscape. Proposition 64, passed by voters in November 2016, decriminalized certain marijuana offenses and set tax regulations on cultivation and sales.
Most people have heard about this controversial yet groundbreaking measure. The already existing medical marijuana market is preparing for a different kind of competition, and entrepreneurs are eager to open up shop. Likewise, recreational marijuana users are eager to buy legally. What you may not know, however, is how the passage of the law will affect those who have convictions for prior offenses that would be considered legal under the new law.
By decriminalizing certain offenses, the law makes it possible for those with marijuana convictions to petition to have their records changed so the case outcome reflects the new law. Prop. 64 treats certain convictions for marijuana offenses as legally invalid, meaning some offenses are no longer crimes. Those who are done serving their sentence for an offense that is now legal can petition to have their convictions dismissed and sealed. Essentially, offenders can ask the court to sentence them as if the law was in effect at the time of the crime. As it already stood, infractions for marijuana possession of less than one ounce for personal use are removed from criminal records after two years. Under the new law, you do not have to wait two years to clean your record.
Prop. 64 also offers benefits for those currently serving a sentence for a marijuana offense. Under Prop. 64, Californians serving their sentence for a marijuana offense that is now legal can petition for resentencing. For many, this will mean a reduced sentence or even early release.
Under the new law, some felony marijuana offenses are now charged as misdemeanors and some misdemeanors are now charged as infractions. Offenders who have already served their sentence for a crime that is now considered a lesser offense can petition the court to redesignate their conviction. With the redesignation, some may be eligible to dismiss the conviction from their record altogether.
Not all offenders will be eligible for redesignation or dismissals. An offender must have a conviction for a qualifying offense, have already served their sentence, and would not have been convicted or would have received a lesser charge if the law were in effect at the time they committed the crime. So, not all of those with a qualifying conviction are eligible. If they were under the legal age of consumption under the new law at the time they committed the crime, for example, they would not be eligible for a dismissal of their conviction. Similarly, if the type of marijuana (e.g. concentrated or harvested flower) were still illegal under the new law, the offender would not be eligible for a dismissal.
If you have questions about how Prop. 64 can affect you, consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. Prop. 64 does involve a significant revision to the legal code on marijuana offenses, but many of those with marijuana convictions will not benefit from the law directly. For example, the unlicensed sale of marijuana was and still is a crime under Prop. 64 as is the use of a minor. An attorney can explain how Prop. 64 can affect you and advise you of your options if you are eligible to petition the court. As the legal landscape for marijuana offenses in California changes, so must the defense against marijuana charges. And, if you are facing charges for a marijuana offense, an attorney can help you plan a strategic defense.
If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about marijuana charges or convictions, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advocate aggressively on your behalf in court. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens is ready to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.