When Washington and Colorado state successfully legalized recreational marijuana use, they set in motion the obvious question: What do we do with those who are imprisoned for what is now no longer illegal?
In Colorado, a panel of three Colorado Court of Appeals judges unanimously ruled in favor of allowing some state citizens who have been convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana prior to the implementation of December 2012’s Amendment 64 to request their convictions to be overturned.
Personally, I believe the United States should adopt the policy of releasing those imprisoned for crimes that are no longer illegal. While I am for the release of non-violent drug offenders, I do see how we have to do it in a legal manner through the court process, not a legislative process. In this instance a court ruling is precisely the way it is happening and should happen under the way our laws work.
While I think many would feel similarly, it walks a fine line in most legal situations. For instance, let’s play Devil’s advocate on the issue. If you were to receive a a $50 parking ticket for parking in front of a building that six months later was no longer illegal to park in front of, would the government owe you $50 restitution? Where would we draw the line?
This Colorado ruling could effectively aid hundreds of those incarcerated for possession of marijuana. There is a disproportionate amount of African-Americans and Latinos being arrested and imprisoned throughout the country for marijuana possession, something President Barack Obama only recently addressed in January:
Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.
I hope people realize how tremendously big of a deal this is. The US is one of the few countries in the world who don’t follow ‘retroactive ameliorative relief’ (the practice of releasing incarcerated prisoners when they crime they are imprisoned for is made legal in the nation). This is a huge step in the right direction.