Six years ago, California voters narrowly decided not to legalize marijuana under Proposition 19. At that time, 46% of voters said yes to the idea and proponents of legalization think that number will break the 50% mark this time around. Legalizing marijuana would reduce criminal drug violations, and the costs associated with prosecuting low-level drug offenses. However, legalizing pot could also lead to an increase in drugged driving offenses.
California paved the way for medical marijuana after decriminalizing pot for medical use with Prop 215 almost 20 years ago. Since that time, half of the states have since adopted some form of medical marijuana legislation. However, other states took it a step further. Beginning with Colorado and Washington, and since adding Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC, more states are looking to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
This November, voters in California will decide whether to make pot legal for recreational use. While it is largely decriminalized, with possession of small amounts of marijuana punishable by a civil infraction and no jail time, the sale, cultivation, and transportation of marijuana is still considered a criminal offense. Legalizing marijuana would allow individuals to buy, possess, and grow marijuana for their personal use.
Even if California legalized marijuana, it remains a crime under federal law. Possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to a year in prison, and a minimum fine of $1,000 under federal law. However, a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision found that federal prosecutors can't go after individuals who are complying with state medical marijuana laws. That hands-off treatment may extend to individuals complying with recreational marijuana laws.
Mexico's President, Enrique Pena Nieto has said that if California votes to legalize marijuana, Mexico would likely follow suit. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to legalize marijuana as well. This would effectively make the entire marijuana legal for medical and recreational purposes from Alaska all the way down to the bottom of Mexico.
One side effect of legalizing marijuana could be an increase in drugged driving offenses. Drunk driving arrests continue to slowly decline, while drugged driving arrests are increasing. Some have blamed legal access to marijuana for an increase in impaired driving charges. The Automobile Association of America (AAA) reported fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in the state of Washington after it was legalized.
One of the problems with reported incidents of driving under the influence of marijuana is that legal limits for marijuana are generally arbitrary. A driver could be cited for being under the influence well after the effects of the drug have worn off. Police and prosecutors generally rely on blood chemical testing that does not clearly indicate if a driver was really impaired at the time they were driving.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people facing drug charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a drug conviction can affect your future, and knows how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing a drug possession charge, contact the local East Bay criminal defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.