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Legalization of Marijuana wipes out Long Penalties for Drug Use and Possession

Posted by Seth Chazin | Dec 01, 2016 | 0 Comments

On November 8, 2016 California voters legalized marijuana for recreational use and at the same time diminished several marijuana usage crimes and reduced the penalties for growing, selling, and transporting the substance.

Many people who face or were facing charges for possession or growing of marijuana can now face relief now that it is no longer considered a felony crime. The debate over Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana, was how the state would allow adults to use pot, while creating taxed retail stores and making it a competitive market. Yet, the most significant reason behind legalization was due to the fact that punishing people for marijuana does more harm than good, especially since those arrested have disproportionately been minority groups.

Judges within California are now setting people free for pending cases because the cases are no longer valid. Others who are already incarcerated or on parole or probation are beginning to petition to reduce their sentences. Potentially, tens of thousands of citizens will clear their names of pot crimes.

There are no comprehensive  set of statistics  on pot crimes, but the Attorney General's office said police made 8,866 felony pot arrests in 2015, involving 7,987 adults and 879 juveniles. These arrests were mostly for possession with intent to sale, cultivation, and transportation. An estimated 2,000 inmates are affected by the passage of Proposition 64, according to the Drug Policy Alliance , a reform group that helped sponsor the initiative.

The passage of this referendum has resulted in drastic changes in the laws relating to marijuana. Those who were growing a single marijuana plant would be charged with a felony that was punishable for up to three years in prison, today this no longer a crime. Local judges have started to send felony pot cases to misdemeanor court.

In San Mateo County, defendants being held in county jails because they could not post bail are being released if they have served more time than they would if convicted of what's now considered a misdemeanor. President of the California District Attorneys Association, Steve Wagstaffe, expects the proposition will cause police officers to arrest and cite fewer people for remaining pot crimes that are now misdemeanors because the effort is not worth the paperwork and time.

Marijuana related convictions and arrests have been under scrutiny recently, as studies have shown that African-American's were more than twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in California in 2010.Despite similar usage patterns In San Francisco, blacks were four times as likely as whites to be arrested for pot possession.

Here is what you need to know, now that marijuana is legalized.

  • Adults 21 and over can legally consume marijuana without having a doctor's recommendation.
  • Adults over 21 can possess up to an ounce of marijuana buds or 8 grams of cannabis concentrates.
  • Residents can grow as many as six pot plants at home or indoors. Local governments can ban outdoor cultivation, as well as set standards for indoor cultivation.
  • Marijuana cannot be consumed in public. Marijuana use is only allowed on private property, not in parks o on sidewalks or anywhere where smoking is banned.
  • People using marijuana in public can be subject to $100 fine. The fine increases to $250 in no-smoking areas.
  • Possession is completely banned in schools and youth centers.
  • Stores selling non-medical marijuana can open on or before January 1, 2018, as a state program for retail licenses begin to be implemented.
  • Marijuana products only can be sold at licensed dispensaries and not at supermarkets or liquor stores or other businesses.
  • Proposition 64 maintains current state laws against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, meaning that driving under the influence of marijuana can be charged as a dui offense.
  • Possessing more than one ounce of marijuana will result in a misdemeanor charge and include a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
  • Adults 18 to 21 will continue to face a $100 infraction for marijuana possession, while youths under 18 can get counseling or community service in lieu of a fine.
  • People who were convicted of a marijuana offense that is no longer a crime can petition to have their records expunged.

With both the ban of the three strikes law and the legalization of marijuana more people have the opportunity to get early release from prison or have their charges dismissed. Now is the time to petition to reduce or end supervision for marijuana related crimes. If you or someone you know is in need of legal advice contact the Law Offices of Seth P. Chazin.

For more reading on Proposition 64, visit:

Sacramento Bee: California legalized recreational marijuana. Here’s What it means

LA Times: 10 Things you need to know about legalized pot in California 

With changes to the Three Strikes law and the legalization of marijuana, more people have the opportunity to get an early release from prison or have their charges dismissed. Now is the time to petition to reduce or end supervision or prosecution for marijuana-related crimes. If you or someone you know is in need of legal advice contact the Law Offices of Seth P. Chazin at or 1-800-499-9902.

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson