California Lawmakers Pass Bill To Erase Past Cannabis Convictions
A new bill, passed on Wednesday by the California Senate, requires the California Department of Justice to erase, or significantly reduce, past cannabis convictions. The Department has been ordered to identify cases from 1975 - 2016 that may be eligible for re-evaluation. This bill comes two years after the state passed Proposition 64, which led to California legalizing cannabis for recreational use at the beginning of this year.
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Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who represents parts of Oakland, introduced the bill, which was passed in the lower house earlier this year. The Senate passed the bill with a 22-8 vote on Wednesday. It will now move to Governor Jerry Brown's office to receive his signature.
Under Proposition 64, California determined that many marijuana 'crimes' were no longer illegal and retroactively applied the decision to past cases. Until now, it was up to the individual to apply to have their cases evaluated which was a costly, time-consuming process. However, the passage of Wednesday's bill has made the process more accessible, and more cost-effective.
Senator Scott Wiener (D), a staunch supporter of the bill, noted that its passage "creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page."
It is estimated that close to 220,000 cases need to be evaluated, which will result in erasure or reduction for each.
California's Department of Justice has until July 1, 2019, to identify all eligible cases after which prosecutors will have 1 year to challenge the cases.
Passage of the bill now gives hundreds of thousands of California residents the opportunity to start afresh, regain some of their rights, and have their cannabis convictions erased or reduced. California will also save time and money as it continues to transition into a recreationally legal environment.
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