Moreover, possession of cannabis while in prison “is not a felony.”

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This is according to a recent ruling by the Sacramento Third District Court of Appeals that happened only last week.

In an unprecedented turn of events, the Court overturned the conviction of five California inmates charged with marijuana possession.

A statement from the panel of three judges involved with the case reads: “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.”

Marijuana consumption, on the other hand, is still strictly prohibited for those currently incarcerated.

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Possession vs Consumption

hand in jail iStock / sakhorn38

The Court’s decision to overturn the five convictions creates a clear distinction between possession and consumption, maintaining that the former is allowed, while the latter remains illegal.

According to the actual ruling, “The purpose of the language is to describe the vast array of means of consumption, and consumption, not possession, is the act the voters determined should remain criminalized if the user is in prison. We agree with defendants that consumption can be achieved in ways not strictly involving smoking or ingesting, such as inhaled as a nonburning vapor or applied topically such that it is absorbed through the skin.”

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The state of California has been a pioneer in the pro-marijuana movement, leading the way for other states considering legalization.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since the passage of Proposition 215, back in 1996.

Recreational cannabis was legalized in the Golden State much more recently. In 2016, Californians voted overwhelmingly in support of passing Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use by residents over the age of 21, with specific limitations to the amount of each form allowed, as in other states, such as Colorado.

Upholding Proposition 64

In accordance with Proposition 64, possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is legal in the state of California.

According to Sacramento County Assistant Public Defender Leonard Tauman, “The voters made quite clear their intention to avoid spending state and county funds prosecuting possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and quite clear that they did not want to see adults suffer criminal convictions for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana.”

It might sound exciting, but the decision is unlikely to have much of an impact for those loved ones who are currently serving time in California state prisons.

Regardless of the Third District Appeals Court ruling and state law, California prisons have the right to ban marijuana possession as a policy to “maintain order and safety in the prisons.”

Following the Court’s recent ruling, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Press Secretary Vicky Waters responded, “While the court’s decision is still under review, we want to be clear that drug use and sales within state prisons remains prohibited,” adding that the CDCR intends to “evaluate this decision with an eye towards maintaining health and security within our institutions.”