Colorado Courts Overturn Some Pot Convictions

One the most common questions I get concerning the legalization of Marijuana is what happens to all of the people who have pleaded guilty before pot was legalized. Colorado gave some guidance on this issue this week. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that any cases that were under appeal when Amendment 64 on recreational marijuana took effect in December 2012 are eligible to have their convictions reversed. Brandi Russell was convicted in Grand County for methamphetamine possession and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana concentrate. Her lawyer filed an appeal in that case and argued that the enactment of Colorado Amendment 64 should make her conviction null and void. Amendment 64 was the law in the State of Colorado that decriminalized the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana or marijuana concentrate. What is interesting is that Amendment 64 does not specifically state that the law should be applied retroactively.

Prosecutors argued that the law should not be applied retroactively and that law should only be applied moving forward. The Appeals Court decided that under Colorado State law a defendant is entitled to receive post conviction relief if there has been a significant change in the law. The Appeals Court ruled that the enactment of Amendment 64 is a significant change in the law and thereby reversed her conviction for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana concentrate. This victory for Marijuana advocates could be short lived as the Attorney General for Colorado, John Suthers, said that his office will appeal. Brandi Russell’s attorney indicated that the prosecutors in Colorado are still fighting these cases and they are not backing off.

This is a significant victory for Marijuana advocates but it should be noted that this does not apply to all previous marijuana convictions. If a person was convicted of possession of marijuana in 1995 this ruling will not help clean up or clear their record. This case narrowly applies to cases that were appealed as the law was enacted. In my experience most cases are not likely to be appealed as the cost can be significant when compared to the likelihood of winning.  Most clients are unwilling to gamble the money and time it take to appeal a sentence on a pot case. Other States are likely to wait and watch as the State of Colorado has to deal with all of these issues that were never contemplated when the law was passed.

As a criminal defense attorney in the State of Missouri I am constantly asked why am I being charged with possession of marijuana when it is legal in Colorado. Many clients want to take their case to trial and use the defense that it is legal in Colorado. Unfortunately, it will take much more than that to win your possession of marijuana case in Missouri. It is important to understand that as of today it is illegal in Missouri and the prosecutors will bring charges against you if you are caught in possession of marijuana. If you live in the State of Missouri and you have a pending possession of marijuana charge it is important that you have a skilled, experienced attorney to represent you and come up with the best possible defense in your case. It is unlikely that the State of Missouri will legalize marijuana anytime in the near future.

If you have a pending marijuana case feel free to contact the criminal defense attorneys at Sansone & Lauber at 314-863-0500 for a free consultation today.

Source:Colorado Court: Some Pot Cases Can Be Overturned,” by Steven K. Paulson at