California’s nickname has long been “The Golden State,” but it might be time to re-name it “The Land of Unintended Consequences.”
The increasingly liberal state has already run into problems with its past choices, many of which seem great on paper — to the left, at least — until they’re actually put into practice.
Now, yet another bright idea out of California is having unintended consequences. A court in the state has just ruled that the 2016 recreational marijuana law passed there applies to everyone, meaning that even prison inmates must be legally allowed to possess pot.
“The 3rd District Court of Appeal’s 20-page ruling says the state’s voters legalized recreational possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in 2016, with no exception — even for those behind bars,” Fox News reported on Friday.
That’s good news for one group: prisoners who were facing added jail time because they got caught with drugs in the joint, if you’ll pardon the pun.
“The decision Tuesday overturned the Sacramento County convictions of five inmates who’d been found with marijuana in their prison cells,” Fox News continued.
The legal landscape around marijuana was already a mess, but it’s even more convoluted for people who are serving time. California’s cannabis law neglected to prohibit possession by inmates, and one of the core judicial concepts in America is that anything not prohibited is de facto legal.
“According to the plain language of…Proposition 64, possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in prison is no longer a felony,” wrote the court panel of three judges who ruled on the issue.
But it gets complicated. “Smoking or ingesting cannabis in prison remains a felony,” they added.
In other words: Marijuana is federally illegal, but legal in California, including in prison, but illegal to actually consume behind bars. Are you taking notes?
As if the issue wasn’t murky enough, authorities also say that prisons can make it a rules violation to possess marijuana, just like other contraband. So a prisoner with a joint may still face prison-level consequences, but effectively can’t be charged with a new crime.
“[P]ossession can still be punished as a rule violation by the California Department of Corrections,” confirmed The Mercury News. “But if inmates wants to keep a jar of weed next to their bunk, the district attorney can’t file charges, according to the ruling.”
In a twist, some defenders of the ruling tried to make a libertarian and fiscal conservative argument to back it up.
“[T]his ruling will prevent inmates from having years added to their sentences for simple possession, reducing overcrowding and saving $50,000-75,000 a year in unnecessary costs,” Assistant Public Defender David Lynch told The Associated Press.
Maybe. But it seems likely that the question of weed possession in prison was completely overlooked when the recreational marijuana law was drafted, and the entire convoluted situation could have been avoided with one additional paragraph of clarification.
This raises real questions about where the line should be when it comes to extending the comforts of home into prisons. A jail sentence is supposed to be a punishment, after all.
Shrugging and going “whatever, keep your drugs” is just a stone’s throw away from turning the big house into a frat house, so comfortable that it stops being any kind of deterrent. Maybe they’d like a PlayStation and some snacks to go with it?
The real takeaway, though, is probably the ineffectiveness and foolishness of endless big government. Relying on bureaucracy to “fix” something is a fool’s errand, often creating a dozen more problems instead of improving anything. California is becoming the perfect example of that, and it’s happening right before our eyes.