In California, Prisoners Can Possess Pot, But They Can’t Smoke It

In January of 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The law allows people over 21 years of age to purchase and possess up to one ounce of the substance. Recently, an appeals court in California ruled that the right extends to incarcerated individuals, with one exception: they can’t smoke or ingest it.

Trial Court’s Verdict Overturned

The decision came after five inmates were found guilty of marijuana possession because some was uncovered in their cells. A conviction for this offense carries a prison sentence of up to eight additional years. Those who supported the justices’ decision said it makes sense not to have someone serving an initial term of two years face even harsher penalties for merely being in control of a substance others are allowed to have.

Marijuana Possession Could Be a Rule Violation

The state argued that allowing marijuana possession in prisons would make it difficult to control inmates and incite drug smuggling. However, the justices said institutions can still punish inmates for rule violations if they have marijuana, and using it behind bars is still a felony offense.

The Department of Corrections Issued a Statement

In light of the appellate court’s ruling, a spokeswoman for the state’s corrections department said that, although possessing marijuana in prison has been considered legal, using or selling it is still unlawful. The department remains focused on protecting the health and safety of those within the institutions.

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