One of the biggest benefits written into Proposition 64 is the fact that it eliminates many marijuana related criminal charges and significantly reduces a number of other related offenses. A number of these changes went into effect the day after the election once the proposition was approved by voters – which should come as a huge relief for the thousands of people who are currently facing marijuana related charges and for those who have already been convicted of them as well. Things that were once criminal misdemeanors are no longer criminal offenses at all, and a number of felonies have been reduced to misdemeanors or are no longer a crime.
“It’s really awesome for a lot of people, of course,” Margolin said. “A young person who sold weed in college and gets caught and then has it affect their whole life — there’s probably more than a hundred thousand people in those situations.”
For those who are currently awaiting court dates, their lawyer, whether they are private or a public defender, will have the opportunity to get their client either off-the-hook entirely, or at least get a severely reduced sentence of a fine or probation depending on the charges. For people who have been waiting in county jails due to the lack of funding to make bail, they may be released with time served before or at their next court date. This is great news for anyone who has been stuck in the court system with all the uncertainty of possible prison time hanging over their heads.
For hundreds of thousands of people who have already been convicted of a crime, whether they are actively on parole or in jail or past their sentence with a felony or misdemeanor conviction on their record, they will also have the opportunity to start with a clean slate. There is an application posted online by the California Judicial Council which is a petition for resentencing, as well as expunging and sealing records, depending on what the original charges were.
“I cannot overstate the significance of this,” said Rogoway. “It really is a paradigm shift.”
Those whose offenses would no longer be a crime will likely see their record expunged – possibly allowing many people to be released from jail and prison on time served and those who are past fulfilling their sentence will likely have their records sealed. All of this is aimed at helping people who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs to get their life back on track – when it never should have been derailed in the first place.