In an earlier NaturalSociety post I reported on a viral article that ‘comically’ reported that Colorado pot prisoners would be released due to marijuana legalization. Though that viral article was fake, some marijuana convictions may actually be reversed in Colorado. While it’s highly unlikely that the state will release all marijuana offenders or reverse all past convictions, some may have their convictions thrown out after a ruling from a state appellate court last week.
As mentioned, the decision comes only a few weeks after the online rumor mill was stirred up by a fictitious article on a satire site. That article claimed all marijuana convictions—past and present—would be thrown out and inmates released. While that may not be true, the real story is a step in the right direction.
Reuters reports the ruling will only apply to those marijuana possession cases that were pending when the new law took effect, among other things. In other words, the effect will be quite small.
In 2012, voters in Colorado approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana. When that happened, a handful of cases were tied up in the courts—either in trial or appeals. It’s these cases that stand to benefit from the ruling.
It’s important to note that the ruling also only applies to marijuana possession cases, not cultivation, dealing, or trafficking. It’s these possession cases that would have only carried a $100 fine at the time of the law change, meaning no one was being sentenced to incarceration for merely possessing pot under the old law.
Still, even a petty offense like marijuana on your record can cause shame and long term repercussions as it could appear on background checks and admitted on job applications for the rest of your life.
The ruling centered on the case of Brandi Russell, a mother who was found in possession of marijuana when she and her husband took their young son to the hospital with a broken leg. She was also charged with child abuse, but was acquitted on that count and convicted for the possession. At the time of the law change, her marijuana charge was under appeal.
“Realistically, this will have a minimal impact because it only deals with defendants who were convicted at trial and whose appeals were pending when the new law went into effect,” said local Colorado defense lawyer Mark Johnson. Still, the ruling is just one more reason to celebrate for marijuana advocates.
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