Prisoners in the California prison system now have a right which ordinary citizens in states like New York, Arizona, and Wyoming do not: they can legally possess a little bit of weed.
The ruling came from the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which said that California’s cannabis legalization, which went into effect last year, holds true for every adult 21 and over in the state, even those who are in prison, as reported by The Associated Press.
The ruling came about after five inmates who had been found guilty cannabis possession in Sacramento County appealed their convictions.
“According to the plain language of … Proposition 64, possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in prison is no longer a felony,” the court ruled, overturning their convictions.
However, the court maintained that while possession was legal, “Smoking or ingesting cannabis in prison remains a felony.”
It’s worth noting that, while this may be a small victory for prisoners’ rights, it does not necessarily mean they can all puff to their heart’s delight. The courts also noted that prisons are free to, and likely will, impose their own rules on prisoners. While not punitave in the courts, prisons could still punish inmates for possession of what they consider contraband through limations on privileges or even longer prison terms.
The state’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, for his part, has argued against the ruling, saying that it was absurd in that it permitted controlled substances in prisons. The court countered that argument, calling it “hackneyed” and “losing,” and pointing out that it isn’t illegal for inmates to have prescribed medicines which are, in other circumstances considered controlled substances.
“As a matter of public policy, his position may be sound,” the judges wrote. “The fact that the Attorney General may not agree with the voters does not empower us to rewrite the initiative.”
Photo via Flickr user JoshuaDavisPhotography