In California, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled that California's incarcerated can possess marijuana but they can't use it. The Court overturned the convictions of five prisoners who had been caught possessing marijuana by citing the language in the 2016 ballot initiative that made possessing less than an ounce of marijuana legal in California. Smoking or ingesting marijuana is still a felony for inmates, and the court stated that prisons have the right to ban marijuana to protect inmates and staff.
The idea that possession of marijuana is okay but consuming it is not may seem trivial, but one California attorney said the real issue is fire. Smoking inside a facility cannot be allowed because people are trapped in cells and have no way to escape a fire if one were to break out.
Even groups that have been advocating for fair marijuana laws thought that the Court's ruling would have little impact. A director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws stated, “As is well acknowledged, plenty of behaviors and activities may be legal under state law that are not necessarily permissible to those that are incarcerated.”
Washington Laws on Marijuana and the Incarcerated
In June 2014, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) announced it would no longer test parolees for marijuana use, allowing parolees to be able to use recreational pot just like their fellow Washington citizens. This made Washington the only state to allow recreational--not just medical--marijuana use for parolees. By not processing parole violators for using marijuana, the state has lowered prison populations and saved administrative costs.
And just this past March, the DOC also announced they would stop testing prisoners for marijuana after several inmates claimed they were unfairly punished after false-positive or misleading urinalysis results. THC, the main psychoactive compound in pot, can remain in some people's system for weeks after use. A prisoner could test positive for THC while they are incarcerated but only because they had used marijuana before they were imprisoned.
However, it is still a felony for a Washington prisoner to possess marijuana and other controlled substances according to §9.94.041, and any sentence handed down for this offense will be added to the sentence already being served. At this time there is no proposed legislation to change this.
Experienced Legal Counsel for Drug Possession
Attorney Steve Karimi provides effective legal representation for clients across Washington. He has many years defending against allegations that involve possession of or intent to deliver controlled substances. If you have a loved one who has been accused of possessing a controlled substance while in prison, contact his office today for a consultation at 206-621-8777.