California legalizes marijuana, exonerates previous charges

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Pretty major news hit the media on Jan. 1 that the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in California. While this is a stride in the direction of furthering legalization, this is also an opportunity for those whom have been criminalized by their past related charges.

“California’s Proposition 64 ballot measure was not only about marijuana legalization, it was one of the most progressive sentencing and criminal justice reforms in the entire country,” said Eunnisses Hernanadez, the policy coordinator at Drug Policy Alliance.

Those with criminal records for possession of cannabis will now be able to have their records cleared or reduced, allowing for more work and financial opportunities. This is a great chance to take advantage of, but the processes are the same as any other legal situation. Individuals wanting to clear or reduce their record will have to submit an application to the court and possibly even hire an attorney like any other case would require. The process is progressive and exciting but requires patience.

Thus far, only around 500 cases have been submitted into the California justice system. According to Rodney Holcombe of the DPA, there “could be close to one million people in the state who have convictions that could now be eligible for relief.” That number is quite incredible considering all medicinal marijuana was legalized in California in 1996. That means most of these charges are for possession or being under the influence in public.

Let’s also be practical and say most people there would get medical cards for miniscule things to gain access to cannabis. I find it hard to believe that many people over time were even charged considering the easier access to the cards. Despite the charges for the non-violent crimes, they are finally getting justice.

So I’m sure some would say that their charges shouldn’t be dropped or reduced at all. I know some would like to attach their personal beliefs to the law and say they should keep the record or stay in jail. They committed the crime while knowing it was illegal at the time, right? Right, but that law no longer stands and changes must be made. Those who are just against marijuana and its users most likely have these opinions because they begrudge them, not because it’s logical or practical.

I have absolutely no problem with people being able to live their lives after handling their legalities. What they did five years ago in their own privacy isn’t a big deal and affected no one other than them. To me it does not make sense to deny someone a life because you don’t like something they’ve done in the past. That’s like not liking someone because of the shirt they’re wearing. That is petty.

But, I digress. One reasoning behind the legalization is so adults can consume marijuana just as they would have a glass of wine after dinner to relax. And according to The Huffington Post, the local and state governments are projected to collect one billion dollars annually off of a seven billion-dollar industry. Government gets their money, and Californians get their weed. Everyone is happy.