Marijuana was legalized for recreational use in California in November 2016 under Proposition 64. Within the structure of the bill, voters also elected to allow those with marijuana related convictions to have their records cleared. However, the process for erasing previous convictions is complicated and expensive. It requires the person to file a petition and attend several court visits and pay the associated costs involved. As a result, few people have decided to undergo this process. Prosecutors in San Diego and San Francisco have decided to get ahead of the issue by moving forward to independently erase thousands of marijuana convictions. This move would serve to help many people, in particular minorities, who have been disproportionately arrested for marijuana related crimes despite the fact that marijuana use is the same across all races.
How a Felony Can Impact Your Life
According to The Cannabist, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said, “We want to address the wrongs that were caused by the failures of the war on drugs for many years in this country and begin to fix the harm that was done not only to the entire nation but specifically to communities of color.”
For those who attain a marijuana related felony, the mark on the person’s criminal record can be devastating for themselves, their families and communities. Felons are not allowed to vote, own guns or have many professional licenses including licenses to legally participate in the marijuana industry. On top of this, the felony will also affect the person’s ability to get work and housing. Minorities are the majority of people who are affected by marijuana related laws and the impact of prohibition can profoundly harm these communities. For this reason, marijuana advocates are pushing for more communities to follow San Francisco and San Diego’s lead and work to help the thousands of people who have been negatively impacted by prohibition.
Low Turn Out for Petitions
Between 2006 and 2015 alone, the Drug Policy Alliance found that over 460,000 marijuana related arrests were made. Despite this high number of convictions, in the first 11 months of the marijuana reform Act Proposition 64 passing, only 4,885 made court petitions to have their records cleared.
Assembly Bill 1793
For this reason, Assemblyman Rob Bonta has developed a proposition that would help affected parties get immediate relief, rather than having to undergo making a petition or hoping that more counties take initiative. He has sponsored the Alameda Democrat’s Assembly Bill 1793 which will force courts in California to expunge the records of Californians convicted of marijuana related crimes that are now legal since the passing of Proposition 64. The bill would need a 2/3 vote to pass and may face opposition from law enforcement but Bonta is moving forward anyway, stating that his bill “tries to create some justice where there was such injustice in the failed War on Drugs.”
All in all, California seems to be dealing with the ramifications of prohibition in a safe and fair way as it moves forward to set up the infrastructure of recreational marijuana alongside it’s medical marijuana industry.