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Thanks to so many people, including Kay Goss, R. Schulte, Pamela Thompson, David 
Lininger, Reka Tabb, Ellen Kaufman, Shirlee Carlberg, Natasha Bergson-Michelson, 
and Kate Brown for the great and quick responses to this target.  My original 
question was:

 A student is doing a persuasive essay on legalizing marijuana, and his
> question is:  If it were legalized, would the people in jail for it be
> released?  Where would we go look for something like that?


My TA tells me to start with
Also a google search for legalizing marijuana should give you at least one
federal law match.

I think Colorado just legalized it.  Maybe something would be found
searching for that?

After Prohibition was repealed, prisoners were pardoned--it depended on the reason. 
Was it tax evasion or simply distributing alcohol? 

The same arguement could be made for marijauna. I'm sure the large growers and 
distributers have not paid any taxes on marijauana

Years ago we had a neighbor who was in a similar situation. He was 
convicted and sent to prison for an offense that was later made legal. 
The law was changed while he was in prison, but he still had to serve 
his sentence because the US Constitution forbids ex post facto laws 
(Article 1, Section 9.3).

Gale has an opposing viewpoints database focusing on pro/con issues like
marijuana.  You might find some information about what could
hypothetically happen in that resource.
   Your question just caught my eye.  I did a quick search for
"retroactive amnesty" and marijuana on Google and found this article, among
others.  It seems that some of the proposed legislation includes this and
some doesn't.

I would look to see what happened in states where it was decriminalized or made 
legal for medical purposes.

Here's a document that somewhat addresses it (see end of page 3, beginning of page 

Do any libraries near you have Gale's Opposing Viewpoints database?  
Seems it would be great for this sort of thing. Sorry that I don't  
have the chance to do a test search for you before recommending.

Two law librarian courses later, my first and best answer is: ask a lawyer.
Google "ask an expert" or "ask a (lawyer OR attorney)" and then ask one of
them the question. has its own asking service at 


The reason for my recommended course of action is that if I remember nothing
else from my courses, I do remember this: I am not an attorney and I cannot
answer legal questions.  As we answer information questions, lawyers answer
legal questions. 


This student's question is actually a bit complicated.  What crime did the
people in jail commit, using, selling, transporting, within x' of school
property, across state lines (which would make it a federal offense), within
one state (which would put it under the jurisprudence of that state), on
military or government property (which would put it under military or
federal law), alone or with a group and then in what capacity, and so many
others.  Each of these situational details would change the answer to the
question, as the question shakes out.  That's why find a simple yes or no
answer is not going to be so simple after all.  


Go for an expert opinion.  Even get in touch with a town attorney or if
there's an attorney, run in by your principal and see if it would be okay to
get in touch with him/her.  Another idea would be to get in touch with the
school's D.A.R.E. officer who would probably be able to answer the question,
and if not, put you in touch with someone who can. 

Shelley Skaar
Library Media Specialist
Eastmont High School
955 N.E 3rd. Street
East Wentachee, WA 98802
web page:

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