Pot Possession in Prisons Approved by California Appeals Court

SACRAMENTO -- A court in California has ruled inmates can have marijuana in prison -- but there is a catch to the ruling.

"It creates confusion," said criminal defense attorney Dan Olsen. "If it's illegal to take it in, it's illegal to use it but now it's not illegal to have it. It's sort of like what's the point of making it not illegal to have it?"

A lot of people are asking that question one day after the plight of five Sacramento County inmates got the nod from California's 3rd District Court of Appeal. That nod now means it's perfectly fine legally for inmates to possess marijuana.

Olsen was quick to clarify.

"It should never make it into the prison and if it does make it into the prison, it should just be basically a table ornament because it's never supposed to go into your body," Olsen said.

Given that pot, much like alcohol, has already been in regular use by inmates and prisoners across the state while banned, few believe the amounts now legally able to be kept won't be ingested.

Olsen said this decision is really about aligning criminal law with what's happened at the polls regarding recreational use.

"Citizens of California decided we don't think marijuana is all that bad. Why punish somebody that much more?" he told FOX40. "If you're doing two years on a robbery, it does seem like a lot to have eight years added for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana."

That has happened repeatedly to those who already had a strike on their record.

"I think, in general, what the voters wanted when they passed Prop. 64, I don't think there was a lot of thought about how it would affect the prisons," Olsen said. "But I also don't think the public cares a great deal."

In a statement, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said, "Possession of marijuana in any amount, remains prohibited by Sacramento jail policy." The press secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said, "While the court’s decision is still under review, we want to be clear that drug use and sales within state prisons remains prohibited."

Those behind bars can still lose "good days," privileges or be bumped up to a higher security classification if they're caught with pot, they just won't face criminal charges.

All of this is still against federal law.

Olsen believes it's likely that California's attorney general may appeal or that lawmakers will try to step in with a legislative fix.

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