It’s stories like this where I’m glad I don’t live in California.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city of San Francisco will be using the state’s new marijuana legalization law as a basis to clear people convicted of both misdemeanors and felonies pertaining to pot use back when it was illegal.
Proposition 64, which state voters passed in November 2016, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California for those 21 and older and permitted the possession up to one ounce of cannabis. The legislation also allows those with past marijuana convictions that would have been lesser crimes — or no crime at all — under Prop. 64 to petition a court to recall or dismiss their cases.
Rather than leaving it up to individuals to petition the courts — which is time consuming and can cost hundreds of dollars in attorney fees — [District Attorney George] Gascón said San Francisco prosecutors will review and wipe out convictions en masse.
The district attorney said his office will dismiss and seal more than 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions in San Francisco dating back to 1975. Prosecutors will also review and, if necessary, re-sentence 4,940 felony marijuana cases, Gascón said.
“Instead of waiting for people to petition — for the community to come out — we have decided that we will do so ourselves,” Gascón said. “We believe it is the right thing to do. We believe it is the just thing to do.”
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There’s a pretty glaring problem here right off the bat — “review” and “en masse” are inherently contradictory. As an opponent of pot legalization I don’t think any of the law is defensible, but the best that could be said of it was that at least its petition system provided for potheads’ grievances to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This, however, seems primed to reward a whole bunch of people who knowingly broke the law — and the fact that they believed it shouldn’t have been illegal (and eventually got their way) doesn’t erase the fact that they knew the rules at the time.
Of course, the broader issue remains that legalization itself is asking for trouble. The Tides Center’s Schizophrenia.com lists thirty studies indicating a connection between pot and schizophrenia. According to the Netherlands’ Maastricht University, “THC [pot’s main psychoactive substance] positives, particularly at higher doses, are about three to seven times more likely to be responsible” for car crashes than factors unrelated to pot or alcohol. Other studies have linked marijuana to increased paranoia, anxiety, risk-taking, inability to focus, distorted sense of time, brain damage, and psychosis.
Accordingly, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration’s 2004 National Survey on Drug Use & Health found that the “percentages of youths engaging in delinquent behaviors” such as theft and assault steadily rose alongside “increasing frequency of marijuana use”; while in 2005 they reported a strong correlation between drug use and other crimes; in particular, “of adults who had been arrested for serious offenses in the past year, 46.5 percent had used marijuana in the past year compared with 10.0 percent of those who had not been arrested for any serious offense.”
But hey, maybe the libertarians and liberals are right, and everything will turn out just fine for California. I doubt it, but that’s the brilliance of federalism — one “laboratory of democracy” can try out a policy for itself before other states have to live under the results.
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