San Francisco Is Wiping The Slate Clean For Marijuana Convictions
San Francisco is retroactively applying California’s new marijuana legalization laws to convictions dating all the way back to 1975. The district attorney’s office announced on Wednesday that both marijuana-related misdemeanors and felonies would be either expunged or significantly reduced as a result of the new laws.
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It’s predicted that nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions will be reviewed, recalled and resentenced and more than 3,000 misdemeanors will be dismissed and sealed, according to district attorney George Gascón.
Gascón’s move is monumental as clear people’s records of crimes that prove to be substantial barriers to securing employment and housing and disproportionately affect people of color and minority communities.
"While drug policy on the federal level is going backwards, San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country's disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular," Gascón said in a statement. "Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocketbooks, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it."
Proposition 64 legalizes, among other things, the possession and purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana and allows individuals to grow up to six plants for personal use. The measure also allows people convicted of marijuana possession crimes eliminated by Proposition 64 to petition the courts to have those convictions expunged from their records as long as the person does not pose a risk to public safety.
They also can petition to have some crimes reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, including possession of more than an ounce of marijuana by a person who is 18 or older.
As of September, 4,885 Californians have petitioned the courts to have marijuana convictions expunged or reclassified, but many people don't know about the process, which can be difficult, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which supported Proposition 64.
"So instead of waiting for the community to take action, we're taking action for the community," Gascón said.
It remains unclear whether other counties in the area will follow San Francisco’s lead but it’s hoped that other cities in California will also take the initiative to help those disproportionately affected by the failed War on Drugs.