Walk down the streets of most big California cities and it’s easy to forget that cannabis is still an illicit drug. Between the state’s massive medical marijuana market and generally relaxed attitudes on consumption, it sometimes feels as though cannabis in California already legal.
But it’s not. And a new study proves it. Thousands of people in the state are jailed on cannabis charges—and only cannabis charges—each year.
In 2015, an estimated 2,139 people in California were convicted, sentenced, and jailed for offenses that involved only cannabis, according to a study commissioned by Drug Policy Action, the political action arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. That’s a decline of 21 percent from the 2,665 people jailed for cannabis-only offenses in 2010, the year before a statewide decriminalization measure took effect.
The fact that so many people are still in jail for cannabis alone is exactly why full-scale, adult-use legalization is so important, said the group, which has endorsed Prop. 64, a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that would legalize adult-use cannabis. It’s a sentiment echoed by John Kagia, an executive vice president at Washington DC-based Frontier Finance Group, which conducted the study.
“One of the things that we have been hearing a lot in this debate from opponents is that nobody goes to jail for marijuana offenses,” Kagia said. “This settles that argument. That is not true. We have the hard data from the counties to prove that.”
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