San Francisco, CA – The city of San Francisco will retroactively apply California’s new marijuana legalization laws to nearly 5,000 prior convictions, and reduce or expunge felony convictions going back to 1975, according to the district attorney’s office.
About 5,000 felony marijuana convictions will be reviewed and resentenced, and more than 3,000 misdemeanors will be dismissed and sealed, according to District Attorney George Gascón, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gascón said the city was doing it to clear people’s records of crimes that can prevent them from getting jobs and housing.
California Proposition 64, known as the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was approved by voters in 2016 by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin.
Under the new law, people who were convicted of marijuana crimes in the past that are no longer illegal can petition the court to have those convictions removed from their records, as long as they aren’t a danger to the public.
Former drug dealers and traffickers can also petition the court to have marijuana-related felonies reduced to a misdemeanor.
"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."
Los Angeles defense attorney Eric Shevin, who specializes in marijuana law, told the Los Angeles Times that many people don't know they can wipe out their convictions. He also said many people can't afford the expense of the expungement process.
Gascón said that was why San Francisco prosecutors will review and wipe out convictions en masse, rather than leaving it to people to petition the courts individually and at their own expense, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
It was not clear whether any other counties planned to follow the notoriously liberal San Francisco’s lead, the Los Angeles Times reported.