Here’s some groundbreaking and optimistic news: California could dismiss all marijuana convictions from the past 40 years.
Californians with convictions for marijuana-related misdemeanors will see their records cleared, as prosecutors up and down the Golden State begin dismissing convictions going all the way back to 1975. Others with felony convictions could see their offenses reduced to misdemeanors.
The News From San Francisco
In San Francisco last week, District Attorney George Gascon announced that his office will be automatically applying provisions of Prop 64 to remove convictions going back to 1975 for activities that are now legal under state law. Gascon noted that policies of the past were unevenly enforced, and disproportionally affected minorities.
“We want to address the wrongs that were caused by the failures of the war on drugs for many years in this country and begin to fix some of the harm that was done not only to the entire nation but specifically to communities of color,” said Gascon.
Prop 64, passed by California voters in 2016, legalized the recreational adult-use of cannabis and provides for a regulated commercial market for marijuana products. It also allows those with convictions for offenses that are no longer illegal to clear their records.
But under the law, those provisions aren’t automatic and can be costly. Those wishing to have their convictions removed are required to petition the court, usually requiring the services of an attorney to create and file their paperwork. District Attorney Gascon said that his action will remove that burden and allow the law to benefit all people equally.
“While this relief is already available pursuant to Proposition 64 for anyone with a conviction, it requires that they know it is available and to retain an attorney to file the expungement paperwork. A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing, and other benefits, so instead of waiting for the community to take action, we’re taking action for the community,” he said.
Final Hit: California Could Dismiss ALL Marijuana Convictions Dating Back To 1975
The San Francisco District Attorney’s office has identified 3,038 misdemeanor convictions that will be expunged, and 4,094 felonies that will be reviewed and re-sentenced.
Authorities in San Diego County are also working to help those with marijuana convictions clean up their records. Summer Stephan, interim District Attorney, said her office is working with county public defenders to identify those who stand to benefit. That partnership has already seen relief for 55 people who were either behind bars or on formal probation.
“We wanted to be pro-active. It’s clear to us that the law was written to allow this relief, and it’s important that we give full effect to the will of the people, especially for those who are most immediately affected,” said Stephan.
But San Diego’s efforts won’t be as comprehensive as the program undertaken in San Francisco. The computer records San Diego officials are using only go back about 15 years. That means it’s still up to people with convictions older than that to take matters into their own hands.
Other California counties haven’t been as quick to retroactively apply the provisions of Prop 64. A bill introduced in the state assembly by Oakland Democrat Rob Bonta in January would require eligible convictions statewide be automatically expunged or reduced by the courts.