Joints in the Joint

Did California’s marijuana legalization initiative (Prop. 64 of 2016) legalize possession in state prison? No, said the California Supreme Court today in People v. Raybon, S256978, although the path to that conclusion was more bumpy than one might have thought.

While generally legalizing possession of marijuana by adults, Prop. 64 had exceptions. One of them excluded “[l]aws pertaining to smoking or ingesting marijuana or marijuana products on the grounds of, or within, any facility or institution under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ….” Wouldn’t the typical voter understand that language to preserve existing prohibitions regarding prisons?

The catch is that the pre-existing law prohibited and punished possession, not smoking or ingestion, as is typical of drug laws. So the argument is that the initiative only preserved a empty set laws and thereby legalized pot in prison even while containing language that the typical voter would have understood to maintain the prohibition there.

Was that the intent of the drafters of the initiative? Were they trying to pull a fast one on the voters by including an ineffective exception, or did they just mess up? Either way, the court didn’t buy the argument, and California prisoners can’t legally smoke the green, green grass of home (or anywhere else) while in prison.