The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday, August 12, that inmates could not have cannabis while they’re in prison. The Higher Court was overturning a lower court’s decision in 2019 that found that prisoners could have the plant in their possession but could not ingest it. The justices said the 2019 appellate court ruling allowing prisoners to have up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of cannabis went against common sense. The high court sided with the state attorney general in finding the state’s marijuana law approved by voters did not apply to Californians in prison.
Associate Justice Joshua Groban wrote for the majority saying, “It seems implausible” that the voters intended to essentially decriminalize cannabis in prisons. He continued “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.” The Supreme Court’s decision was handed down in a case of five men who were convicted of marijuana possession after being found with cannabis in their prison cells. In 2019, California’s 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that although smoking and ingesting marijuana in prison is illegal under state law, possession of cannabis was not specifically outlawed by statute.
Under that ruling, the appeals court found that prisoners could legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Other appeals to court decisions, however, had found that possession of cannabis is still against the law. In the 5-2 decision the high court said, “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.” In the majority opinion, Groban wrote that there, “is nothing in the ballot materials for proposition 64 to suggest the voters were alerted to or aware of any potential impact of the measure on cannabis in correctional institutions, much less than the voters intended to alter existing proscriptions against the possession or use of cannabis in those institutions.”
Groban acknowledged that the provisions of Prop. 64 are not being applied equally to all Californians but noted that prisons also prohibit possession of other items including alcohol and tobacco. Groban also made a note to say, “We are sympathetic to the view that [existing law] creates extreme disparity between how our legal system treats the possession of cannabis generally versus the possession of such a substance inside a correctional facility. That is also true of many other substances, including alcohol.” Although cannabis legalization is accepted, for the most part, many aspects within legalization and marijuana reform still need further examination as to how far the parameters are exactly.