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California Supreme Court rules prison inmates not allowed to have marijuana

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state’s law allowing the use of recreational marijuana does not apply to prison inmates, overturning a 2019 appellate court ruling that allowed prisoners to possess up to 1 ounce of pot.

(CN) — The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state’s law allowing the use of recreational marijuana does not apply to prison inmates, overturning a 2019 appellate court ruling that allowed prisoners to possess up to 1 ounce of pot.

In a 5-2 decision, the state’s high court ruled that “it seems unlikely” voters sought to decriminalize possession of marijuana in prisons.

“We agree with the Attorney General that if the drafters had intended to so dramatically change the laws regarding cannabis in prison, we would expect them to have been more explicit about their goals,” wrote Associate Justice Joshua Groban.

The ruling stems from five inmates who contested being convicted of possessing marijuana. The Third District Court of Appeal threw out the convictions, stating that prisoners could possess the drug as long as they didn’t consume it.

“While perhaps not illogical to distinguish between the possession and use of cannabis, it is nonetheless difficult to understand why the electorate would want to preclude laws criminalizing cannabis possession in prison, but permit laws criminalizing cannabis consumption in prison,” Groban wrote in Thursday’s ruling.

He also addressed the stiff penalty that comes with being convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana in prison.

“Some may well view an eight-year prison sentence for the possession of less than one gram of cannabis (one gram is the approximate weight of a single paper clip or a quarter teaspoon of sugar) as unduly harsh,” he wrote. “The wisdom of those policy judgments, however, are not relevant to our interpretation of the statutory language.”

In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. California was also the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

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