Marijuana Moment reports
New federal guidelines from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) advising judges to treat prior marijuana possession offenses more leniently have officially taken effect.
About seven months after members of the commission voted to promulgate a series of amendments—including a multi-part criminal history revision that adds cannabis possession as an example of an offense that generally warrants sentencing discretion—the new guidelines became effective on Wednesday.
Federal judges have historically been directed to take into account prior convictions as aggravating factors when making sentencing decisions in new cases. But as more states have moved to legalize marijuana, advocates have pushed for the updated guidelines to make it so that a person’s cannabis record doesn’t necessarily add criminal history points that could lead to enhanced sentences.
Congress was given an opportunity to challenge the revised guidelines after they were approved by the commission, but lawmakers declined to do so. The Justice Department testified in support of the amendment at a USSC public hearing in March.
The updated guidelines don’t remove marijuana convictions as criminal history factors entirely, but cannabis possession-related sentences are now cited as an example of “when a downward departure from the defendant’s criminal history may be warranted.”
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