Court rules that inmates can have marijuana in prison

SACRAMENTO, CA. (CNN) - A court in California has ruled inmates can have marijuana in Prison

The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled that California voters legalized recreational possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in 2016, with no exception even for those behind bars.

But the court says state law does prohibit smoking weed in prison. Prison officials can also still punish pot possession as a rules violation.

“According to the plain language of ... Proposition 64, possession of less than an ounce of cannabis in prison is no longer a felony,” the court ruled Tuesday. “Smoking or ingesting cannabis in prison remains a felony.”

The court overturned the Sacramento County convictions of five inmates who had been found with marijuana in their prison cells.

“The voters made quite clear their intention to avoid spending state and county funds prosecuting possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and quite clear that they did not want to see adults suffer criminal convictions for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana,” Sacramento County Assistant Public Defender Leonard Tauman said in an email. The appeals court “quite properly honored what the electorate passed.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said it is reviewing the ruling and did not say if he will appeal.

“We want to be clear that drug use and sales within state prisons remains prohibited,” said corrections department spokeswoman Vicky Waters. She said the department “is committed to providing a safe, accountable environment for prisoners and staff alike and we plan to evaluate this decision with an eye towards maintaining health and security within our institutions.”

The three-judge panel rejected the state’s argument that guards will lose control over prisons if inmates are free to possess small quantities of marijuana, noting that possession can still be punished as a rules violation with longer prison terms or a reduction in privileges.

While prison officials can still punish inmates for violating the rules, “this 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,” said Assistant Public Defender David Lynch.

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