Residents of California that have been convicted of marijuana-related misdemeanors will see their records wiped clean, as the state’s prosecutors start to dimiss convictions dating back to 1975. Those who have been convicted of a felony may see a reduction to a misdemeanor.
Last week in San Francisco, District Attorney George Gascon made an announcement that his office will be applying provisions of Proposition 64 to remove convictions going back over forty years for events that are now legal under California law. Gascon remarked that past policies were unequally 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,” Gascon said.
Passed in 2016, Prop 64 legalized recreational adult-use marijuana and provided a regulated commercial market for marijuana products. It also permits the state’s residents with convictions for offenses that are no longer illegal the ability to remove it from their records.
However, this doesn’t just happen on its own and can be quite expensive. Those who would like to wipe their record clear of a marijuana-related offense are required to petition the court. This requires retaining an attorney to complete all necessary paperwork. DA Gascon stated that his action will remove that burden, permitting the law to benefit all 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,” Gascon said.
The San Francisco DA’s office has discovered over three thousand misdemeanor convictions that will be expunged, and over four thousand felonies that shall be reviewed and re-sentenced.
San Diego County is also aiding those with marijuana convictions to clear their records. Summer Stephan, interim District Attorney, stated that the office is working together with the county’s public defenders. This has resulted in relief for more than fifty people that were in jail or on 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,” Stephan said.
Assembly Bill 1793 was introduced in the state assembly by Oakland Democrat Rob Bonta in January. The bill would require eligible convictions statewide be automatically expunged or reduced by the courts, speeding up the process of Prop 64. The bill requires a two-thirds vote.