The U.S. Sentencing Commission has voted in favor of a proposal that updates sentencing guidelines to advise judges to treat past offenses related to marijuana in a more lenient manner.
The commission voted in favor of the change today through a unanimous voice vote, while also voting to advise that marijuana possession warrants discretion in regards to sentencing especially given its non-violent nature. The proposed changes have been sent to Congress which has until May 1st to issue any objections. Barring an objection the changes will take effect in November.
The change clarifies that a downward departure from the defendant’s criminal history category may be warranted based on if “the defendant received criminal history points from a sentence for possession of marihuana for personal use, without an intent to sell or distribute it to another person.”
A downward departure is when the federal judge imposes a defendant a sentence that is lower than the minimum sentence that was suggested by the sentencing guidelines.
“While marihuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), subjecting offenders to up to one year in prison and up to two or three years in prison for repeat offenders, many states and territories have reduced or eliminated the penalties for possessing small quantities of marihuana for personal use,” states the proposal.
The change comes as over 20 states have legalized recreational marijuana and all since 2012. This isn’t including the nearly 40 states that have legalized medical marijuana.