Criminal defense attorney Dan Olsen said, “It creates confusion if it’s illegal to take it in, it’s illegal to use, but now it’s not illegal to have it. It’s sort of like, what’s the point of making it not illegal to have it?”
A lot of people are asking that question one day after the plight of five Sacramento County inmates got the nod from California’s Third District Court of Appeals. A nod that means it’s now perfectly fine legally for inmates to possess marijuana.
Olsen was quick to clarify: “It should never make it into the prison, and if it does make it into the prison, it should just be basically a table ornament because it’s never supposed to go into your body.”
Given that pot—much like alcohol—has already been in regular use by inmates and prisoners across the state while banned, few believe the amounts now legally able to be kept won’t be ingested.
Olsen said this decision is really about aligning criminal law with what’s happened at the polls regarding recreational use.
“Citizens of California decided we don’t think marijuana is all that bad,” Olsen explained. “Why punish somebody that much more? If you’re doing two years on a robbery, it does seem like a lot to have eight years added for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.”
And that has happened repeatedly if someone already had a strike on their record. “I think, in general, what the voters wanted when they passed Prop 64, I don’t think there was a lot of thought about how it would affect the prisons but I also don’t think the public cares a great deal,” Olsen said.
Maybe not, but you know who does? The guards and sheriffs who fought against this change.
In a statement, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said, “Possession of marijuana in any amount, remains prohibited by Sacramento Jail policy.”
The press secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said, “While the court’s decision is still under review, we want to be clear that drug use and sales within state prisons remain prohibited.”
Those behind bars can still lose “good days,” privileges, or be bumped up to a higher security classification if they’re caught with pot. They just won’t face criminal charges.