Marijuana ruling could overturn thousands of convictions — or dozens

March 24, 2014

Anywhere from a few dozen to more than 10,000 people could be eligible to have their old marijuana convictions overturned as the result of a landmark Colorado Court of Appeals ruling that applied marijuana legalization retroactively.

Colorado defense attorneys are poring through previous marijuana cases, looking for former clients who might be eligible for such relief, but much depends on how subsequent courts apply this month's ruling. On the surface, the ruling appears to have little reach, but attorneys say it is possible courts could follow the reasoning of the ruling to overturn every marijuana case in the state in which an adult was convicted of a crime that stopped being illegal when the state's marijuana-legalization law went into effect in late 2012.

"I think there are thousands of people who could potentially have their convictions overturned," said Sean McAllister, an attorney who specializes in marijuana cases [and Colorado NORML Board Member] and who said he is already working with several clients to see if their previous convictions could be tossed.

But, in order for that to be true, Colorado courts will have to adopt an expansive reading of the ruling — a scenario prosecutors see as unlikely.

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