Thousands of California misdemeanor marijuana convictions could be expunged soon in an effort by leaders in two cities to correct the damage to some communities by a decades-long, failed “War on Drugs.”
Some of the obvious pros for marijuana legalization include economic opportunities, increased taxes flowing in to the state coffers and fewer jails and prison packed with non-violent drug offenders . California is already beginning to experience these perks since the passage last month of the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The drug is still deemed a Schedule I narcotic under the federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 812.
The issue of non-violent drug arrests and convictions has been a controversial one in recent years, with some politicians clinging to the illogical argument that a failure to crack down on low-level possession leads to widespread and dangerous use. This just isn’t true, but this flawed thinking and aggressive enforcement of arcane laws has dearly cost individuals, families and communities (particularly those that are majority minority).Now, San Francisco and San Diego are taking it a step farther by clearing marijuana possession criminal records for thousands of people, according to a New York Times report. The San Francisco district attorney’s office said it is expunging about 3,000 misdemeanor convictions that go back 40 years. In addition, 4,900 felony cases will be reviewed and considered for reduction to misdemeanors in San Francisco.
In San Diego, 4,700 cases are under review to either clear or reduce charges. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, about 700 have been reduced so far. The process started with about 55 cases where people were either in prison or fulfilling probation that were considered top priority. Of those incarcerated, some were serving extensive sentences of up to 18 years.
Other cities are also taking steps in this direction by reviewing convictions on a case-by-case basis. In addition, Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced AB-1793, which if passed would automatically expunge eligible cannabis convictions statewide.
Under California’s new law, citizens with low-level offenses on their records can petition to have them erased, but it can be an expensive process and many aren’t even aware they qualify. These two cities are skipping the petition step and just taking care of the records themselves, though San Diego is still encouraging people to fill out the application form so their cases do not get lost in the review process.
Clearing and reducing records will make it possible for these citizens to not be hindered in achieving basic goals, such as finding work or obtaining housing or loans, particularly when their crimes are not even considered illegal on the state level anymore. Same cases are not eligible to have charges downgraded, including those of people who also have sex crime convictions or violent crimes on their record.
Our Los Angeles marijuana defense lawyers are proud that California is leading the country in creating equity in the era of marijuana legalization. Other states have been lagging in this area, with Nevada’s governor vetoing a bill that would have cleared low-level offense records and Colorado dragging its feet for five years before even allowing residents to apply to have certain convictions erased. If you are being tried for a marijuana-related crime or need guidance on whether you qualify to have a previous charge reduced on your record, our attorneys have the year of experience to assist you.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients, defendants, workers and those facing criminal marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
San Francisco Will Clear Thousands of Marijuana Convictions, Jan. 31, 2018, By Timothy Williams and Thomas Fuller, New York Times
More Blog Entries:
New Program in Works to Help Mitigate Marijuana Convictions in LA, Nov. 6, 2017, Los Angeles Marijuana Defense Lawyers Blog