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Marijuana Legalization Takes Root In San Diego Courts

December 8, 2016 1:11 p.m.

Marijuana Legalization Takes Root In San Diego Courts


Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

Related Story: Marijuana Legalization Takes Root In San Diego Courts


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our top story on midday edition it's no longer a crime to possess, use, or grow marijuana for personal use in California, but there are a lot of people who were arrested and convicted and serve time for doing just that. Now the proposition 64 legalizing recreational marijuana has gone into effect San Diego County law enforcement is working to update the system and get justice for those who got caught up in the states harsh marijuana laws. Joining me is Andrew Baldwin. In your report you say about 20 people had been released from custody early in San Diego since proposition 64 asked. How does it actually change sentencing laws for marijuana?
For people 21 and older it's now legal under state law to possess, transport, giveaway, and grow small amounts of marijuana. For people under 21 but are still legally adults, there is a fine and an infraction with some drug education and committee service requirements. Be on that a lot of felonies have been reduced to misdemeanors things like possession with intent to sell and the law got stricter for smoking or consuming marijuana in public. Is also noteworthy that there has been no change of penalties to selling marijuana to a minor or driving under the influence.
So some people got out of jail because of proposition 64 was passed. It is -- is it also retroactive for people that serve type has a criminal record?
Yes, this goes back to the beginning of prohibition of marijuana. So people that got caught up on the harsher drug policies they can asked to have their criminal records changed. There are some exceptions for registered sex offenders and convicts with a super strike on the record. So for anyone hearing that this law will never fully release child molesters are murderers onto the streets, that is not the case.
Is it the responsibility of the people who are serving time or who have this on the record to petition for a reduction or are the attorneys seeking them out?
It depends. I will go back a little bit in time about a month before the election actually took place, the District Attorney's Office sat down with the public defender's office and they came up with a plan to repair for legalization because they saw it was likely to pass. Both offices were proactive in identifying people in custody and people on probation who would be eligible for resentencing under proposition 64. When it comes to the retroactive changes to criminal records the burden falls on the people who were convicted of that crime. The public defender's office is it will try and seek out people that it is represented in the past. So people that are declared indigent and try to file petitions on their behalf. For the most part, it'll be up to those people to seek out private attorneys or ask the public defender's office to file these petitions.
The DA are working together on this is this cooperation typical?
It is an interesting question because in general the religion -- the relay ship is adversarial. It started with the alignment so when several inmates were transferred from state prisons to county jails and also two years ago California voters approved proposition 47, which reclassifies many felonies and misdemeanors. Both the DA and the public defender's office say they learned lessons for dust from propposition 47. I spoke with Jane Gilbert and here's what she said.
This is not an adversarial project. We all go -- agree that this is possible and let's get an efficient way to get them through quickly and not impact the courts and or offices.
These are the types of lessons that they've picked up from propposition 47.
Yes. The petitioning process is for resentencing or changing a criminal record is under similar. A lot of the lessons they talked about that they learned is familiarity with the bureaucracy with the forms and process and also knowing whom to ask for information. So they approach the state prisons and county jails asking who is currently in custody and might be eligible for these things. They also approached the County probation Department. It is sort of knowing how to navigate the whole petition process.
Studies have shown that marijuana laws have disproportionately impacted African-Americans because they were more likely to be incarcerated because of marijuana violations. In regard to that proposition 64 has a social justice angle to it as well.
I think that was one of the things that the supporters were really proud of. The greatest impact of proposition 64 will be on people who were in jail and now are free and can sort of clear their names because what they previously committed is no longer crying. Having a felony can also prevent you from getting a job or professional license or federal student loans. Getting that cleared can really have a great impact on people's lives. Also once the state sets up the regulatory system for marijuana sales and cultivation some tax dollars that they will be collecting on marijuana are specifically designated for programs like job placement centers and substance abuse treatment programs in communities that were most affected by past drug policies. This is really a testament to how thorough proposition 64 was when the state legalized marijuana. There was a lot of criticism that it was like okay, now it is legal and no one knew what the law was and how to comply with it. The offers of proposition 64 say they learn from the past mistakes and problems with how laws were written in the past. Without a doubt, there will be problems as we move into this new era of legal marijuana. This law was much more comprehensive than laws that were passed in the past.
I've been speaking with Andrea Bowen Metro reporter. Thank you.
You are welcome.