Updated: Jan 23
Many states in the United States have legalized the use of marijuana which includes California. But although marijuana is now legal in many states people are still in jail for using or selling it.
Marijuana was first legalized in the United States back in 1996 for medical purposes with California being the first state to legalize it. And in 2012 Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Since then 39 states have legalized marijuana for either medical purpose, recreational purpose, or both. Although marijuana is legal now in 39 states, many people are still in jail for it.
There are about 545,062 people who are still in jail for either selling or smoking cannabis when it was illegal. And more than 2,100 people were jailed in California for weed offenses according to The New York Times.
Now people might say that because these people committed the “crime” when it was still illegal they should rightfully stay in prison. However, many people, including myself, think it’s completely unfair to still keep them in prison. Why would somebody have to pay for a “crime” when it is no longer illegal? Especially when some of them were using it for medical purposes.
Sadly, not only are the people who committed the “crimes” suffering from being imprisoned but also their children and family members are suffering. Many children have grown up without fathers or mothers because of this. And many have childhood traumas from seeing their parents be taken away from them. The National Institute of Justice states that children who have parents that are incarcerated face a host of challenges such as psychological strain, antisocial behavior, suspension, expulsion from school, economic hardship, and criminal activities. Children who have parents who are incarcerated are more likely to have a hard time in school which is unfair to them.
Our criminal justice system is not okay with people being set free for crimes related to marijuana, which is now legalized, but is okay with children and families suffering for committing a crime that is now considered meaningless. Some people had harsher sentences than others such as being sentenced to jail for up to 20 years and more.
It’s crazy to think how much society has changed in only a matter of decades. In the 80s and 90s doing or selling cannabis could get you up to 20 years in prison. But now you can’t pass a shopping center without seeing a cannabis store.