Los Angeles County District Attorney General George Gascón announced on Monday, September 27th that his office will automatically dismiss nearly 60,000 past marijuana convictions as part of the continued effort to remedy the disproportionate harm caused by the War on Drugs. Gascón’s move follows the first wave of expungements carried out by his predecessor, Jackie Lacey, who dismissed 66,000 cannabis-related convictions last year. Today’s announcement means that Los Angeles County has expelled a total of roughly 125,000 past marijuana convictions.
The expungements come roughly five years after California voters legalized the adult use of cannabis in Nov. 2016. The Attorney General said, “Dismissing these convictions means the possibility of a better future to thousands of disenfranchised people who are receiving this long-needed relief.” He continued, “It clears the path for them to find jobs, housing, and other services that previously were denied to them because of unjust cannabis laws.” Other states, cities, and districts, such as Brooklyn, for instance, have made similar sweeping cannabis case dismissals over the past several months.
Sealing these records will allow people who were convicted of cannabis use or possession to seek out new jobs, citizenship, and educational opportunities without a conviction hanging over their heads. Lynn Lyman, former director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement, “Proposition 64 was always about more than legal weed, it was an intentional effort to repair the past harms of the war on drugs and marijuana prohibition, which disproportionately targeted people of color.” After the proposition passed, about 66,000 cannabis convictions were dismissed last year.
However, those cases were dismissed after being identified from state Department of Justice data. A closer examination of Los Angeles County court records uncovered approximately 58,000 more felony and misdemeanor cases that date back thirty years and are also eligible for expungement. The latest round of cases now eligible for dismissal could come as a surprise to people who either thought their convictions were already dismissed last year or were not aware they are eligible for resentencing, Gascón’s office revealed that nearly 125,000 marijuana cases are being expelled in Los Angeles County alone. This is a major win for the cannabis community as we see marijuana reform progress further.