When California voters legalized cannabis for recreational use Nov. 8, they retroactively erased several small-time pot crimes and reduced the penalties for bigger ones like growing, selling, and transporting, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Much of the debate over Proposition 64 centered on how it would allow adults to use marijuana, while creating taxed retail stores and turning a shadowy industry into free-market competition. The core motivation behind legalization was the view that punishing people for pot does more harm than good, especially because those arrested have disproportionately been people of color.
California judges are setting free scores of people whose pending cases are no longer cases. Thousands more in jail or prison, or on probation or parole, are beginning to petition to reduce their sentences. Potentially tens of thousands of citizens with a rap sheet for pot can clear their names. Police made 8,866 felony pot arrests in 2015, involving 7,987 adults and 879 juveniles, mainly for possession for sale, cultivation and transportation. About 2,000 jail and prison inmates are affected by Prop. 64, says the Drug Policy Alliance, which backed the initiative. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office said Prop. 64 could result in court savings of tens of millions of dollars per year.